Years ago, around town, any mention of the Pittsburgh Steelers would have been met with a shrug. Between 1958, when the Colts won their first NFL championship, and 1968, when they won their third, Baltimore played the Steelers just once.
It was a game that Charlie Stukes won't forget. A tall and physical cornerback from Maryland State (now UMES), Stukes starred in a 41-7 rout of Pittsburgh in 1968, returning an interception 60 yards for a touchdown. The Colts swiped three passes that day and ran them all back for TDs.
Stukes' steal, off Steelers quarterback Dick Shiner (Maryland), was the only interception not tipped at the line of scrimmage by Bubba Smith, the Colts' 6-foot-7 All-Pro defensive end.
"I stepped in front of the receiver and caught that ball on the run," Stukes said. "Then I took off for the end zone. I knew I had to score because, if you catch it on the run and then get caught from behind, your teammates never let you hear the end of it."
It was his one TD in six years with the Colts (1967-72). Stukes, a fourth-round draft pick and former college quarterback, blossomed into a punishing defender who intercepted 20 passes here and started in Baltimore's Super Bowl victory over Dallas after the 1970 season.
Two years earlier, he'd played in Super Bowl III — one of five Maryland State players to suit up in that game. The others were Jim Duncan (Colts) and Emerson Boozer, Johnny Sample and Earl Christy (New York Jets).
"We weren't one of the largest schools around," Stukes said of his alma mater. "But we turned out some tremendous athletes."
Now 69, he works as an administrator at Oscar Smith High in his hometown of Chesapeake, Va. Formerly the school's football coach, Stukes became assistant principal 20 years ago. But he'll be on the sidelines Friday when the Tigers, reigning state champions, play in the regional finals.
"I don't give my opinions [to the coaches] at games," Stukes said. "But, I'll tell you, the adrenaline does get to flowing out there.
"Do I feel like I'm 18 again and ready to play? No sir, not that. I'm not going to let my mind fool me."
Married 25 years, Stukes has four children (son Dwayne starred at McDonogh and was special teams coach for Tampa Bay in 2011) and four grandchildren, with whom he still plays catch.
"I'll throw the football, but the kids do all of the running," he said. "The spiral is still there. It has a little wobble, but I can still get it to where I want it to go."
In hindsight, Stukes said, he wouldn't change much in life.
"God has been good to me. I don't have a lot of complaints," he said. "A knee replacement last year left me feeling rejuvenated. I don't need help getting up in the morning. I play some golf.
"I'll work as long as I feel that I'm doing some good. I look forward to being the best person I can, each day. I'm not one to sit and reminisce."
On the walls in the family room hang an old Colts helmet, covered with faded autographs of teammates; a framed photograph of the team's 11 defensive starters in Super Bowl V; and his college diploma.
The sheepskin, Stukes said, is his most precious keepsake — and that includes his Super Bowl ring.
"My goal, in going to college, was to graduate so that if something happened [in football], I'd have something to fall back on," he said.
"Thank God I listened to my parents."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun