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Chargers by the (Jersey) Numbers: #54

54 presents a good mix of old-school and "current" school.

Ron Botchan, LB

Ed Flanagan, C

Carl Gersbach, LB

Tom Good, LB

Kurt Gouveia, LB

Eric Hill, LB

Jim Laslavic, MLB

Paul Latzke, C

Doug Miller, LB

Ralph Wenzel, G

The Runner-Up


Stephen Cooper, LB

I may not be that big a Stephen Cooper fan, but even us Stephen Cooper Haters Doubters have to accept that he’s been a solid contributor to some pretty successful team and some stout defenses – including 2 of the last 3 years of 100+ tackles.  He’s certainly not "flashy."  Nor is he "fast" or even "quick."  But he’s an energetic team leader who seems to be around the ball a lot.  And he seems to have a "wily" sensibility that makes him decent in coverage and a pretty good blitzer, when the Chargers choose to use him that way.


The Winner


Billy Ray Smith, LB

Boy, talk about bad timing.  BR was a pretty good linebacker who was stuck on some bad defenses and teams – even though he played with some of the greatest players in Charger history.  He came to the Chargers toward the tail end of the Coryell years so he played with Fouts and Muncie and Winslow and Joiner, and he left right as the Boss Ross regime was taking flight, so he played with O’Neal and Byrd and even Seau.  And yet he played in a grand total of 0 playoff games.


I guess you could say that BRs legacy, perhaps more than any other Charger, was of a conduit to greatness.  But that’s not to say that BR didn’t have some moments of greatness himself.  Splitting his time between inside linebacker and outside linebacker in the Chargers’ original incarnation of a 3-4, Smith racked up he racked up 26.5 sacks, including 11 in 1986.  He also finished his career – exclusively spent as a Charger – with 15 interceptions.


BR’s service to the team continues to this day as a pre-season broadcaster and sports talk show co-host.  At least he gets to SEE the occasional playoff game.