After playing for the then-Houston Oilers for one season, Doug Wilkerson came to the Chargers in 1971. He was entrenched as the team’s left guard for the next 14 seasons. At 38 years old and the third-oldest player in the league at the time, Wilkerson retired prior to the 1985 season, as the team expressed an interest in a youth movement at several positions.
But Wilkerson should be remembered as one of the finest offensive linemen in team history. Over the course of those 14 seasons, he played in and started in 195 games. To this day, only five players in team history have played in more games.
Wilkerson was selected in the first round of the 1970 NFL Draft by the Oilers. Drafted No. 14 overall, he remains the highest drafted player ever taken out of North Carolina Central. The following season, the Chargers traded for him.
They got what they were looking for. An athletic, consistent guard who would man his side of the line for over a decade. Perhaps the most impressive part of Wilkerson’s career was that he seemed to get better each year, rather than regress. That, or it just took the rest of the league that long to give him the respect he had earned.
He wasn’t selected to a Pro Bowl until 1980, but then made three in a row. That all came after he was 30 years old. He was also chosen as a member of the All-Pro First Team in 1982, a year shortened by a strike, but still one of the best in team history.
For his efforts and contributions to the team, Wilkerson was named to the Chargers’ 50th Anniversary Team and the Chargers’ Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
Wilkerson was a consummate professional, one who should be remembered as perhaps the best guard in the history of the franchise.