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December 7, 2010

This column by Bill Tanton appears in the December issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 300,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

A Tough Guy for the Ages

by Bill Tanton | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Former Navy star Charlie Guy ranks as Bill Tanton's all-time tough guy in lacrosse.

December is hardly the month to be writing about tough guys, but I suppose it's OK if the subject is someone of Christian goodness and charity off the field.

Toughest lacrosse guy ever? Who's to say? Too many to count.

Today, all the players look tough to me. They're all weight lifters. They work out year-round. I can't imagine any lacrosse player looking more formidable than Paul Rabil.

Still, there are some old-timers who stand out in my mind. One was Charley Wicker at the University of Maryland in the mid-1950s. When I was a young lacrosse official my whistle was always at the ready with Wicker on the field.

Dick Corrigan, an All-America attackman at Maryland then, tells a typical Wicker story. The year was 1958, on the day Corrigan — an uncle of Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan — scored nine goals against Navy.

"A Navy player hit me at the sideline and drove me out of bounds," Corrigan said. "I looked up from the ground and saw this red blur go by. It was Wicker. He hit that Navy guy so hard he could have knocked him into the third row at Byrd Stadium."

Another unforgettable tough guy from the past — make sure your whistle is handy, ref — is the seldom remembered Lou Richman. He played defense for a school that now has no intercollegiate sports at all, the University of Baltimore. Richman was a genuine roughneck.

All-time tough guys? Let's get more modern. You can't leave out Hopkins' Dave Pietramala. Dave played his last game there in 1990. If you're too young to have witnessed his aggressive playing style, you can get an idea of it from watching him on the sideline as Hopkins' head coach today. Same style.

My nominee, though, is Charlie Guy. He never changed. He was tough until he died this year on May 22. He was 86.

In Tampa, where Charlie lived, Jim Schaler didn't meet Charlie until 10 years ago — when the former Navy football and lacrosse All-American was 76. Schaler coached a weekend lacrosse team called the Tampa Trendies. He ran an ad in the paper seeking players. The next Sunday Charlie showed up at the field, ready to play.

"When we saw this old guy wearing a goatee pull up in a gold Jaguar convertible with a siren going," Schaler said, "we had no idea he was a former Navy star who had become one of the richest guys in Tampa and one of the most generous. We put him in at defense. The first time an opponent came down on a fast break, Charlie didn't just pick him up and play him. He flattened the poor guy!"

"You don't have to be so physical," Schaler told him.

"Did the man score?" Charlie snapped.

"No," Schaler said.

"Then we'll do it my way," Charlie informed him.

Charlie's friends were aware that, in his 70s, he was still going to Vail in the summer to play for the Navy Old Goats. I saw him for the last time on April 18 this year at the Navy-Hopkins game in Annapolis, Md. Wouldn't you know? With Charlie up from Florida, Navy defeated Hopkins that day for the first time in 36 years. Charlie liked Navy's toughness.

RIP, Charlie Guy. Toughest lacrosse guy I know.

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