October 1, 1972
Ex-Salamanca Athlete ‘Walk On’ For Giants
Crist can be described as a walk-on, a comparative unknown who asks for a chance to show his ability.
Captain of the Penn State basketball team in his senior year, Crist is a rookie defensive back and special teams performer for the New York Giants, who play the Philadelphia Eagles Monday night at Veterans Stadium.
If Crist does something outstanding, he might be excused for laughing at Eagles’ General Manager Pete Retzlaff, who reportedly didn’t even return a telephone call recommending Crist be given a tryout.
The unusual story of Charley Crist begins at Salamanca Central School in upstate New York, where he was a quarterback who also played basketball. Penn State recruited the 210-pounder for both sports, but told him he could make a choice if he didn’t want to play two sports in college.
It wasn’t an easy decision. Crist had been a fine runner and blocker in high school, despite his post at quarterback. In basketball, he was an outstanding jumper, a hustler who was an inspirational leader.
Crist decided to play basketball at Penn State. He says now that his one regret was not playing both freshman football and basketball before making his decision. “I might have been a little hasty in deciding on basketball. Once, after my sophomore year, I though about playing football – kicked the idea around – but didn’t do anything about it.”
When Crist completed his collegiate basketball career, he decided he wanted to play pro football.
“Coach Bach (Penn State basketball coach Johnny Bach) was a good friend of Wellington Mara (co-owner of the Giants) and asked him to give me a chance. Mara talked with defensive coach Jim Garrett and they invited me to a tryout camp in May. Later, they called me back for pre-season camp.”
Crist made the 40-man roster and played in most of the season opener against Detroit when regular free safety Spider Lockhart was injured. Lockhart was back for the Giants’ second game against Dallas, but Crist played with the kickoff and punt return teams.
Crist says he doubted his ability to make the team right up to the last cut. “When I was still around then, I was sure I’d survive.”
Cornell Green , the standout defensive back of the Dallas Cowboys, is another NFL player who never played college football. Green was a basketball player at Utah State.