Today would have been Charles Martin’s 58th birthday, but the wild man former nose tackle died in 2005 at age 45 from a kidney condition. In high school, Martin was known as “Too Mean,” and he lived up to that nickname as a Green Bay Packer. He went to tiny Livingston College and played with Birmingham in the USFL before joining Forrest Gregg’s first Packer team in 1984. Gregg’s teams were short on talent, and he tried to make up for that by having them play aggressively, especially against the hated Bears. For some reason, there was very bad blood between Gregg and Bear Coach Mike Ditka, probably going back to their playing days in the 1960s. Ditka had a vast advantage in talented players and that allowed him to beat the Packers at will. With Gregg, his foe, as the opposing coach, Ditka took to rubbing Forrest’s nose in it. In their 1985 championship season, the Bears won both games against the Packers so easily that they had 300-pound defensive tackle William “Refrigerator” Perry score a touchdown in each game, one came on a run and one on a pass reception off of play action.
The 6’2″ and 285 pound Martin compensated for his modicum of talent with an abundance of belligerence. He was known for frequenting bars and becoming extremely antagonistic after having a few drinks. A few years later, he would check into an alcohol treatment center. Some teammates also suspected that he used steroids. As an example of his troubled behavior, there was a sexual incident in a bar in 1986 that got Charles a two-game suspension by the team. The first game against the Bears that year was very hard-hitting. Mark Lee was thrown out of the game for tussling with Walter Payton on the Packers second possession. On the next possession, Martin dropped Walter Payton on running play. The whistle blew, and safety Ken Stills came charging in and drilled Bear fullback Matt Suhey from behind as he was walking back to the huddle. The Packers were penalized and defensive coach Dick Modzelewski began yelling at Stills from the sideline, but Gregg told Modzelewski to lay off. He liked the aggressive attitude. The Bears went on to win again 26-12.
The 1986 rematch at Soldier Field was Charles Martin’s moment. That day he wore a towel at his waist with five Bear uniform numbers he was gunning for: Jim McMahon, Payton, Dennis Gentry, Willie Gault, and Jay Hilgenberg. In the second quarter, McMahon threw a pass that was picked off by Mark Lee. Following the interception, Martin headed right for McMahon. However, instead of blocking him as was his right, Martin grabbed McMahon from the blind side, picked him up off the ground, and body-slammed him onto the hard ground as if the two were in a World Wrestling Federation grudge match. McMahon landed on his shoulder and would be out the rest of the year. Martin was thrown out of the game and came off the field getting high fives from some teammates; he would be suspended by the league for two games. Once again, the Bears pulled out a 12-10 win in the fourth quarter.
It was an embarrassing moment to be a Packer fan. Second-year linebacker Brian Noble to his credit went over to the Bears locker room after the game and apologized personally to Ditka for his teammates’ actions. Martin apologized through the media and unsuccessfully appealed the suspension.
Charles Martin was involved in another bar incident in 1987 — this time involving a bouncer and was waived from the Packers. He was picked up by the Oilers and spent a year there and a year in Atlanta before drifting out of the league. His violent take down along with other sacks not quite as heinous led to 1987 rule changes outlawing body slams and the taking of more than one step toward the passer after the ball has been thrown.
(Adapted from Packers by the Numbers.)
1987 custom card is colorized.