Original Oakland Raider, Charlie Powell, may be the most talented athlete that you have never heard of.
Muhammad Ali, Bill Veeck and Bobby Layne. Aside from the fact that each was a prominent figure in the world of sports, there's nothing obvious that links these three men. One way in which they are linked, though, is through the person of Charlie Powell. Powell is almost certainly the only person who can say that he played baseball for Bill Veeck, fough Ali and sacked Layne.
Imagine if you were to package these talents into one athlete in today's times. Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson were quite a marketing bonanza, but, neither of them stepped into the ring with Mike Tyson in his prime. In fact, neither of them stepped into the ring at all.
Powell played professional baseball, seven years of football in the NFL and AFL and had 56 career pro fights, rising to the #1 contender for the heavyweight crown.
Right out of high school, Charlie decided to play baseball over being the first black player at Notre Dame or playing football at UCLA (Where his role models Kenny Washington and Jackie Robinson attended).
The St. Louis Browns signed him out of high school and he played for the Stockton Ports.
Interestingly enough, his football career started when, after not playing a down in College, Tony Morabito from the San Francisco 49ers came rolling up in a gold convertible Cadillac while Charlie was on his front porch playing a saxophone and invited him to camp in SF. Already bored with baseball, Powell accepted his offer. Charlie's strength and ability were too much for the 49ers to ignore and he became a mainstay on the D-line at 20 years old.
Charlie would play football during the regular season and then box in the off-season. When his boxing career started to take off, he was being trained by Joe Louis, he took a two year break to pursue his dream of becoming Heavyweight Champion of the World.
In his boxing career, he trained with Archie Moore and Sonny Liston, knocked out the #1 contender , Nino Valdes, and fought BOTH Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali. His fight with Ali was two fights before Ali won his first Heavyweight Title against Sonny Liston (Review of Fight Here).
Charlie's last two season's were with the Oakland Raiders. He played in all 14 games in each of the Oakland Raiders' inaugural seasons until he retired.
In his life we faced racism head on, often eating under the flagpoles in front of restaurants that would refuse him service. He also saw the effects of racism on his friends. He witnessed his Japanese friends being hauled away to Camps when he was only 10 years old. Through it all, Charlie kept his eye on the prize and never let the evils of bigotry and ignorance interfere with his dreams.
He now lives in Pasadena and helps fighters get through life that have little to no hope and are down and out.
Charlie Powell's life exemplifies, perfectly, the kind of person it took to break through the color barrier. He is strong in body and mind and it is because of him that many people of color are able to earn livings in more than just sports today. He is one of the strong men upon who's back we now have a black President. If anyone ever fails to acknowledge that sports played the largest role in integration, they need to learn more about the players like Charlie Powell.