Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Conerly Was Toughest of the Giants

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Conerly Was Toughest of the Giants

Article excerpt

He had a face like old leather and an almost silent spirit that was even tougher. For the Giants, Charlie Conerly set the standard at quarterback before Y.A. Tittle and Fran Tarkenton were obtained in trades, long before Phil Simms and Dave Brown arrived.

At age 35, he took the Giants to the 1956 National Football League championship with a 47-7 rout of the Chicago Bears in the title game in their first year at Yankee Stadium - the season that inspired the sellout crowds that have surrounded the Giants ever since.

"I got most of the accolades that year," his teammate Frank Gifford recalled, "but we knew who got us there."

It had been a hard journey. In his early seasons, Conerly was pro football's most battered and broken quarterback.

"He played one whole season, '52 or '53," said Gifford, his longtime roommate, "with a shoulder separation."

Sturdy at 6 feet and 185 pounds, Conerly never griped about his inept blockers and grumbled only once at them. After having been slammed to the ground several times by Cleveland Browns pass rushers, he wobbbled to his feet and looked around the huddle.

"Would any of you guys," he asked, "like to come back here and throw this thing?"

After the 1953 season, Conerly wanted to return to his Clarksville, Miss., cotton farm, but Jim Lee Howell, the new Giants coach, persuaded him to keep playing. With better blockers and better pass receivers, he guided the Giants' offense to the 1956 NFL championship, then to the 1958 and 1959 Eastern Conference titles before losing both championship games to the Baltimore Colts.

When the Giants obtained Tittle in 1961 from the San Francisco 49ers, Conerly quietly accepted the backup role.

"Unlike many of today's players, Charlie never complained when Tittle came over," said Wellington Mara, the Giants' co-owner. "He didn't ask to be traded. He didn't ask for anything."

Tough - no football player has ever been any tougher than Charlie Conerly was. And in mid-February he died tough.

Found more than a year ago to have congestive heart failure, he had struggled to stay alive in Methodist Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., for nearly five months after triple heart-bypass surgery on Sept. …

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