Former North Carolina RB "Choo-Choo" Justice dies at 79

Updated: October 17, 2003, 11:09 AM ET

CHERRYVILLE, North Carolina - Charlie "Choo-Choo" Justice, a two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up as a running back at North Carolina, died Friday. He was 79.

Justice, who also starred for the Washington Redskins in the 1950s, totaled 4,883 yards running and passing during his four years at Chapel Hill, a record that stood until quarterback Jason Stanicek broke it in 1994.

In 1948, Justice was second to Doak Walker of Southern Methodist in Heisman Trophy balloting. The next year, Notre Dame's Leon Hart finished ahead of Justice.

Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford called Justice's contributions to the school and intercollegiate athletics "immeasurable" and said he was even a better person than a football player.

"Greatness and humility are too seldom linked, but they certainly were with Charlie," Swofford said.

Upon graduating from high school in Asheville, North Carolina, Justice enlisted in the Navy and played for a non-collegiate football team. It was there that he earned the nickname "Choo-Choo" because teammates said he ran like a train.

The first athlete named to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, Justice played for the Redskins in 1950 and 1952-54. Last year, he was honored as one of the team's greats during its 70th anniversary celebration.

"The little guy has everything," Curly Lambeau, the Redskins' coach in 1952 and 1953, once said. "He has tremendous take-off speed and all the guts in the world. All he needs is a sliver of daylight and he's gone."

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index