By Rob Kiser
Piqua lost a true football coaching legend and valued member of the community when Chuck Asher passed away Friday at the age of 88.
Chuck’s record on the football field speaks for itself.
Chuck graduated from Middletown High School in 1948. He graduated and earned his bachelors degree in physical education from the University of Louisville, where he had a remarkable career as a lineman for the Cardinals, gaining the nickname “Mr. Defense.”
He then proudly served in the United States Army during the Korean War as a Corporal. Following his honorable service he attended Miami University-Oxford, where he graduated in 1957 with a master’s degree in physical education.
He became the head football, baseball and basketball coach at Northwestern High School in Springfield. He then became the assistant football coach at Euclid High School.
He went on to coach football at Piqua Central after serving as athletic director. He then went on to successful tenures and Bellefontaine and Lehman Catholic High School and later was an assistant coach at Miami East.
At Piqua, he is still the third winningest coach ever, going 77-55-7 in 14 years.
During his time at Piqua, he coached Craig Clemons and Dave Gallagher who went on to successful NFL careers.
While coaching at Lehman, one of his greatest coaching thrills in his forty-one years as a coach was winning against the former state champion St. Henry team in 1993, snapping the Redskins 29-game win streak and giving the school what is still Lehman’s only berth in the state semifinals.
He came to Lehman in 1991 and had a 71-36 record in 10 years as a coach.
He advanced to the playoffs four times and was Southwest District Coach of the Year twice.
He was inducted into the Piqua Athletic Hall of Fame, Butler County Hall of Fame and Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
But, what I enjoyed most was the conversations I was lucky enough to have with Asher at various times while working for the paper.
One that I will never forget was when I was doing a story on him during Piqua-Troy week.
He was talking about his first season as coach in 1964. The Indians would finish that season 9-1.
Midway through the season, he began to build a house here in Piqua and was feeling pretty comfortable with the Indians being undefeated.
After a few weeks, he ran into the superintendent who asked him what he had been up to.
He told him he was building a house and the superintendent’s response was, “I don’t know if I would do that, you haven’t beaten Troy yet.”
Asher was proud of Gallagher and Clemons — as I am sure he was of all his former players who went on to be successes in life. He would always let me know what they were up to.
And one thing people may not know, is Asher is one of the few people who both played with and coached Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas.
Asher was a senior lineman at the University of Louisville when Johnny U was a freshman and later coached him when he returned to the school.
“I remember when he was a freshman and he was wearing those high top shoes (that he made famous),” Asher said in an interview shortly after Unitas’ death in 2002. “I don’t think I ever saw him in a pair of low-cut shoes. We started out that season 1-4. He took over at quarterback after that and turned what would have been a pretty disastrous season into a good season.”
Asher recalled the home opener against Houston. This was back when the quarterback, not a coach, called the plays.
“We had the ball on our eight-yard line,” Asher said. “He came in the huddle and called a pass. Some of they players were saying, ‘What?’ He said, ‘I call the plays, you go execute them.’ He threw a pass for 60 yards and that was about the last time anyone questioned him.”
Asher returned to coach the defensive line Unitas’ senior year.
“He was a great guy to coach,” Asher said. “He knew where everybody was supposed to be on every single play. I knew he was one of the great quarterbacks I had ever seen.”
Asher also recalled a time when he was living in Cleveland and Unitas called him at home.
“My wife (Jo Ann) answered and he told her it was Johnny Unitas and he wanted to talk to Chuck. Well, she just couldn’t believe Johnny Unitas was calling to talk to me.”
All I can say now is heaven is getting one heck of a football coach — and he knows where to look for a quarterback.
We will miss you Chuck.