By DILLON HOLLOWAY

Charles Douglas “Doug” Cline was a standout, durable linebacker for the Oilers for most of seven seasons. 

Of his 95 pro career games, all but two were with Houston. 

Cline was born in Valdese, N.C., on March 22, 1938. 

He played his college ball at Clemson University, where he was a bruising fullback who stood 6-foot-2, weighed 230 pounds, and used these assets to crash through opposing defenders.

In one of his more memorable games for the Tigers, Cline rumbled for 125 yards in a thriller against Wake Forest in 1959 to Clemson over the top for a 33-31 victory.

The high-contact runner finished the season with 1,084 yards on 250 carries, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. 

Cline was no stranger to the spotlight throughout his Clemson days, earning a slew of awards and achievements, including: 

  • 1958 ACC All Scholastic Ballfield team
  • 1959 All-American
  • 1959 All-ACC
  • 1959 Academic All-American
  • 1959 ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy (the first Clemson winner)
  • 1959 Look Magazine All-America Checklist Nominee 

After helping Clemson to the first Bluebonnet Bowl, Cline was drafted by the Oilers in the second round of the 1960 AFL draft. 

Cline’s 1960 publicity photo as an Oiler rookie

He was also selected in the 14th round of the NFL Draft with the 168th pick by the New York Giants but elected to sign with Houston instead. 

This placed him in direct competition for backfield playing time with standouts Billy Cannon, Dave Smith, and Charley Tolar, so carries were scarce for Cline, who only managed 105 yards on 37 carries for two touchdowns in a reserve role. 

In 1961, due to a number of departures and injuries, the Oilers harnessed his athleticism for defensive purposes, where the big-bodied Cline was able to turn the tables and bruise offenses. 

By 1962, his quickness helped him develop into Houston’s best linebacker, earning AP and UPI All-AFL Second-Team honors. 

Although he started as an outside linebacker, Cline lined up at middle linebacker for the better part of six seasons and served as the eyes and voice of Oiler defenses of that era. 

Cline’s 1963 Fleer trading card

With the exception of two games at the end of the 1966 season, Cline spent nearly his entire career with the Oilers, winning two AFL championships and receiving All-AFL first-team honors in 1963. 

At the time of his retirement, Cline owned the league record for most fumbles returned for a touchdown (three), and he remains tied for 10th-most with 35 other players, only five of which played before or during his career. 

Unfortunately, most other defensive statistics were not kept/retained during Cline’s career, so measures of his impact can only be related anecdotally. 

Before his final season with the Oilers, the team media guide noted that Cline was “One of few batchelors [sic] among veterans on the club” and that he spent off-seasons manufacturing weights with former Oiler teammate Mike Dukes. 

He was elected to Clemson’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991. 

On October 10, 1995, Cline passed away at age 57.

Dillon Holloway is a native Mississippian currently residing in central Oklahoma. He is a rabid football fan and a historian of the sport. He is a husband, a military officer, volunteer teacher and football coach, and emerging guest speaker. He graduated from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in aerospace studies. He played football from pee-wee through high school, winning the 2A Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) state championship and was named first-team all-district guard in 2011. Since his first football practice, he has always made the sport a part of his life in some fashion, and writing for Miss Ya Blue! allows him to continue to do so.

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