Charlie Joiner wasn’t just a Charger great, he was an All-Time Great! Joiner was one of the most decorated wide receivers at the time of his retirement. He played for a total of 3 clubs over the span of 18 years! At the time of his retirement, he had ranked #1 in career receptions at 750, #1 in career yards by a wide receiver at 12,146 and the most games ever played by a wide receiver in NFL History at 239 games. After his last season as a player for the Chargers, Joiner would stick with the team as an assistant coach. From 1987 – 2012, Joiner would coach receivers. For his efforts, Joiner would be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in 1996.
Born in Many, Lousiiana, Charlie Joiner didn’t even play football until his Junior year in high school. Some people are just naturally gifted at football and Joiner became an All-State player quickly after putting on his pads. With help from his high school staff, Joiner would go on to receive a Scholarship from Grambling State University in 1969. This was a major accomplishment considering that Joiner grew up in extreme poverty. While at Grambling State, Joiner would play for legendary coach Eddie Robinson. For anyone who is unaware, Eddie Robinson is one of the most successful college coaches ever, with an overall record of 408 – 165 -15 over the span of 56 years. He was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
Joiner was one of many players under Eddie Robinson who would turn very successful college careers into NFL ones. Raider’s Willie Brown, Chief’s Buck Buchanon and Packer’s Willie Davis are all Hall of Famers who played for Grambling State under Eddie Robinson. Also, Redskin’s Super Bowl XXII MVP, Doug Williams was a Tiger in college. Joiner is part of elite company with a very impressive pedigree. He played primarily Wide Receiver in college with James Harris as his quarterback and was a 3-time All-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection.
Charlie Joiner was drafted in the 4th Round of the 1969 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. He was drafted to be a defensive back, but he returned kicks and was used more at receiver. He played 3 seasons for the Oilers before he was traded mid way through his 4th season to Cincinnati, where Joiner would play under legendary Coach Bill Walsh. At the time, Walsh coached quarterbacks and Wide receivers. When Walsh left Cincinatti to become the offensive Coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, he recommended the Chargers find a way to acquire Joiner. This was a significant time, because Joiner had injury issues prior to arriving in San Diego.
Joiner did have some success while he played for both the Oilers and Bengals, but it seemed to always be cut short to injuries. When Joiner arrived in San Diego, he was already 29-years-old, with really only 2 seasons above 600 yards receiving. Some how, the best years in his resume came late in his career and after he turned 30 years old. He would be a key contributor to the Air Coryell Era made up of Dan Fouts throwing passes to Joiner, Kellen Winslow and John Jefferson. Joiner was the first player to average over 1000 yards receiving in 3 consecutive years, from 1979-1981. He was 32 when that streak started, which is well past what is considered prime for that position group.
Joiner went on to play until 1986 and stayed with the Chargers to finish out his career. Over his final 10 years with the Chargers, he only missed 1 game due to injury. He played until he was 39 years old, and he managed to put up over 900 yards receiving at 36 and 38 years old. He finished as a true NFL Ironman, playing in a total of 239 games which ranks him in the top-10 at his position group. To give you an idea, Larry Fitzgerald, Tim Brown and Jerry Rice are only a few who have managed to accomplish the feat more than 250 games. He was a 3x Pro Bowler and made 1 All-Pro team in 1980. His 750 career receptions ranks 40th overall and his 12,146 yards ranks 24th overall.
Retirement/ Coaching Career
After Joiner retired as a player, he joined the San Diego Chargers coaching staff as an assistant coach. He stayed with the Chargers from 1987-1992 where he coached 5x Pro Bowler, Anthony Miller. He then moved to Buffalo to coach from 1992-2000. In Buffalo, he helped create success for Pro Bowler, Eric Moulds and Hall of Famer, Andre Reed. From 2001- 2007, Joiner joined the Kansas City Chiefs, which did not utilize receivers the same, because these teams around a strong running game with Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson, while their tight end, Tony Gonzales, being the primary receiver. After his stint with the Chiefs, Joiner retuned to San Diego to help coach Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd. He retired at a coach in 2012 with a total of 44 years of NFL experience.
Joiner was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996. After his home burned down in the San Diego wild fires of 2007, he was presented with a replica bust at the Junior Seau Foundations, “Legend of the Year.” He lost much of his sports memorabilia during the fire and the Hall of Fame worked with Seau’s Foundation together to provide memorabilia back to Joiner and his family. Charlie Joiner left an incredible amount of history over his 44-year NFL career, so it is great that the Hall of Fame was willing to provide some of that back to the Joiner Family.
Words from Charlie Joiner at the time of his retirement from coaching:
“I will always be a San Diego Chargers fan. This is where my career started. Even though I played for two other teams, my career started here and now it’s ending here,”