Golden Scots: Monmouth's Goehl suffers injury during game against St. Olaf in 1971

By Barry McNamara
For The Register-Mail
Charlie Goehl, the Midwest Conference’s all-time leading punt returner, moves the ball up the field in a Monmouth game from the early 1970s.

MONMOUTH — Losing two starters to injury on the same play is not a frequent occurrence, but it happened to Monmouth College in its 1971 meeting with arch-rival St. Olaf.

“I remember a lot about that day,” said Charlie Goehl, a junior that season who started on both sides of the ball. “It wasn’t a good one for me.”

Goehl arrived on Monmouth’s campus in 1969 after an outstanding playing career at Huntley High School northwest of Chicago, which was, at the time, a fairly small school (it today has an enrollment over 3,000). As a senior, one of his coaches was 1968 Monmouth graduate Jack McDonald, who drove him to visit Monmouth’s campus. Goehl’s brother had played at Northern Illinois, but the Huskies only made a walk-on offer to Goehl. Like many members of the 1972 Fighting Scots, he chose the potential for more playing time at a smaller school rather than the likelihood of simply being a practice player for a university squad.

“Coming in to college, it was a big unknown. I was the smallest guy on the team, other than (5-foot-5 John) Carter,” said Goehl, who developed into a 5-11, 176-pound frame by the time he was a senior. “A lot of the guys had come from big high schools, and I’d just come from Huntley. You weren’t sure if you were good enough to play.”

Charlie Goehl wanted to play quarterback

Goel came to Monmouth vying to one day be the varsity quarterback but soon realized there was a faster track to playing time.

“Freshman year, I was one of the quarterbacks on the team,” he said. “So was Tim Burk and so was Steve Rueckert. There were about eight or nine quarterbacks on the roster. There were a lot of pretty good quarterbacks waiting in line, so I decided to switch to wide receiver.”

That was the offensive story. But Goehl also grew into a key member of Monmouth’s defense and special teams as a safety and punt returner.

He recalled his efforts in the final game of the 1970 season, when St. Olaf topped Monmouth 41-32.

“My sophomore year, playing defensive back I had eight tackles in the fourth quarter alone, so you know that’s not good,” he said.

But that contest, the final one of the season, was Monmouth’s only loss. Goehl was part of a defense that shut out four opponents.

He and his teammates were out for revenge against St. Olaf in the 1971 season, which saw Goehl lead the team in receiving and run back two punts for touchdowns while averaging 17.7 yards per return.

“The temperature had been about 60 degrees the day before, but it just kept falling and falling, and it was about 17 degrees at game time and still falling,” recalled Goehl. “That was before you had any of the under armor you have today. I remember I didn’t even have gloves.”

As the first half was winding down, his season ended.

“I went to make a tackle, and after the play, I couldn’t get up,” said Goehl. “They wound up taking me to the hospital. It was a spine, muscular thing. There were no MRIs back then, but it was substantial. It still bothers me to this day.”

It bothered Goehl enough at the time that he spent the next 10 weeks in a neck brace. For the first two weeks, he was in the hospital, but not at the facility that first saw him in Minnesota. Bill Reichow made sure of that.

“He came to visit me after the game, and he told the people at the hospital ‘I can drive him home,’” said Goehl. “It’s something like an eight-hour drive, but that’s how I got home, in the back of his station wagon. I tell you what, if you had to count on him, he was there. I really thought he went above and beyond the call of duty for me that day.”

Hearing Goehl recount the extent of the injury, it’s a wonder that he was back in action for the 1972 Scots.

“It was late in the semester, so I had to take incompletes in all my classes, and it was bad enough that I couldn’t play baseball that next spring,” he said.

Goehl had opportunities to play professional football

But Goehl rebounded to not only excel on the 1972 squad but have opportunities in professional football.

“I never expected to be signed by the (Minnesota) Vikings,” he said of the milestone event, which occurred on Feb. 15, 1973. The next year, Goehl signed with the Chicago Fire of the short-lived World Football League, which played one season in 1974.

Recently, the Midwest Conference published a comprehensive football record book in conjunction with the league’s 100th anniversary. Goehl is No. 1 on the MWC’s list for punt return average for a season (24.5) and career (19.0). The latter figure leads the category by a wide margin. In second place is another member of the M Club Hall of Fame who played for Reichow in the 1970s, Mike Schmitz.

“We worked on punt returns a lot,” said Goehl. “It’s not like I was Devin Hester back there. The success we had on that was very team-oriented. We took a lot of pride in that. Of course, the rules were a little different back then, and there’s some blocks we could do then that would be illegal today. You just hoped the other team had a decent punter who could get the ball in the air. And Carter was really something on the kickoff returns, although it worked better if you just handed the ball to him. He didn’t have great hands.”

Goehl went on to coach baseball and football at Elmhurst College, where he still works as a professor of kinesiology. He’s authored several articles on teaching and coaching.