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Charlie Leigh

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Charlie Leigh

Charles Leigh
No. 23
Running back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1945-10-29)October 29, 1945
Place of birth: Halifax, Virginia
Date of death: October 26, 2006(2006-10-26) (aged 60)
Career information
High school: Albany (NY)
Debuted in 1968
Last played in 1974
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Stats at

Charles Irving "Charlie" Leigh (October 29, 1945 – October 26, 2006) is a former National Football League (NFL) running back. He is best known for backing up Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick and returning kicks for the Miami Dolphins' back to back Super Bowl champions in the 1972 and 1973 seasons. He also played for the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers. He played a total of six seasons in the NFL despite never playing college ball.[1]


He began his NFL career with the 1968 Cleveland Browns after playing high school football at Albany High School in Albany, New York without having ever played college football.[1][2] As a running back, he rushed 23 times for 144 yards, a 6.3 yards per carry average, and he scored one touchdown.[2] His number of carries, total rushing yards and yards per carry average all proved to be career highs.[2] He was also used extensively as a kick returner. He returned 14 kickoffs for 322 yards, a 23.0 yard per return average. And he returned 14 punts for 76 yards, a 5.4 yard per return average.[2] Leigh led the Browns and placed 13th in the NFL in both yards per kickoff return and yards per punt return in 1968.[3][4] Leigh played for the Cleveland Browns in 1969 as well, but received little time at running back and did not carry the ball the entire season, although he did catch two passes.[2] He did return five punts for 18 yards and two kickoffs for six yards that season.[2]

Leigh did not play in the NFL in 1970, but played for the American Football Conference champion Miami Dolphins in 1971.[2] For the Dolphins that season he rushed just five times for 15 yards and returned just four kickoffs for 99 yards, although he played in all 14 games.[2]

Leigh became the primary punt returner for the famous 1972 Miami Dolphins team that had a perfect season and won Super Bowl VII. Leigh returned 22 punts for 210 yards and a 9.5 yard average for the 1972 Dolphins.[2] The 22 punts returned ranked 5th in the NFL that season, and the 210 yards and 9.5 average each ranked 6th in the NFL that season.[2] Leigh also returned six kickoff 153 yards, a 25.5 yard average, and rushed 21 times for 79 yards, a 3.8 yard average.[2] Leigh got to play in Miami's 14-7 Super Bowl victory over the Washington Redskins, but did not have any carries or returns.[5]

Leigh had one of his most productive seasons in 1973 for the Dolphins, another Super Bowl championship team. Leigh rushed 22 times for 134 yards for a 6.1 yards per carry average with one touchdown.[2] His yards per carry average was second on the team to Mercury Morris' league leading 6.4.[6] He also returned nine kickoffs for 251 yards, for a 27.9 average that would have ranked 6th in the NFL had he had enough returns to qualify for the league leaders.[2][7] He also had nine punt returns for 64 yards, for a 7.1 average.[2]

1974 was Leigh's final NFL season. He played one game for the Dolphins before moving to the Green Bay Packers. He played 10 games for the Packers. For the season, he returned 11 kickoffs, all but two for the Packers, for 251 yards and a 22.8 yard average. He also carried the ball one time for the Packers but did not gain any yards.[2]

Career stats

For his career, Leigh rushed 72 times for 372 yards, a 5.2 yards per carry average and two touchdowns.[2] The 5.2 yards per carry average was better than several of his more celebrated teammates, including Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly (4.2), Hall of Famer Larry Csonka (4.3), 3 time Pro Bowler Mercury Morris (5.1) and 2 time Pro Bowler Jim Kiick (3.7).[8][9][10][11] He also returned 46 kickoffs for 1082 yards and a 23.5 yards per return average, and returned 50 punts for 368 yards and a 7.4 yards per return average.[2]


Leigh died of lung cancer on October 26, 2006.[12][13]


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