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Looking back at versatile grid star Charlie Johnson

The versatile athlete is that extra dimension that attracts additional spectators to venues. He/she, whether of the multi-sports variety or simply single-sport, normally creates much more excitement than those who are limited talent-wise.

In The Bahamas, Glenroy’Flo’Saunders and Eddie Ford usually come quickly to mind when the subject of sports versatility comes up. There were a lot others also who gave fans a lot for their dollars. On a wider scope, Deion Saunders is one of the ultimate versatile performers. He played 11 seasons in the National Football League(NFL)and was a Pro Bowl selection on eight occasions. He won two defensive player of the year awards and two Super Bowl rings. He did it all while returning punts and kicks, starring at cornerback and also playing the wide receiver position.

Saunders was good at baseball. He played eight seasons in the major leagues and won a National League triples title. That’s versatility for you.

Charlie Johnson wasn’t in Saunders’class, but he was extra special on a local football field.

During the 1970s in The Bahamas American Football Association(BAFA)there was a productive team known as the Beck’s Skins. Johnson was an offensive star with Beck’s who pulled off one of the more unique combination of positions. He might very well be a trivia question.

I don’t recall at this writing, any other local NFL player excelling at the positions of running back and quarterback, but there was Johnson, one of the most feared runners out of the backfield and a capable signal caller as well.

His peak year was 1975. He was named the BAFA Most Valuable Player. His 567 rushing total in yardage(in 133 carries)was second in the association and he anchored the offense at quarterback during several games that season. There were better running backs than Johnson. Names like Bruce’Dick Brown’Russell, Sharky Martin, and Basil’Bar’Davis come to mind.

The combo of the running back and quarterback positions however is quite special. Those who understand the game would have a good idea of just what a challenge such an accomplishment is. It’s no doubt because of such characters, like Johnson and the others aforementioned, why for many, the brand of football being played today, pales in comparison with that of yesteryear.

The magic just isn’t there. This is the case also in basketball, softball, volleyball, baseball, soccer, cricket and even the mind games of checkers, chess and dominoes. The Charlie Johnsons and those of that ilk, across the broad spectrum of sports here in The Bahamas, were one of a kind.

It’s a real pleasure returning them to the spotlight, one more time.

(To respond to this column, please contact Fred Sturrup at

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