Hawaii's Charlie Ane played on last Detroit Lions team to win NFL title in 1957

Jan. 28—A thread binding today's NFC and AFC championship games to Hawaii can be traced to Kaimuki, where the Ane family resides.

The late Charlie Ane, a multi-sport legend from Punahou, played on the last Detroit Lions team to win an NFL Championship in 1957.

His son Kale, another Punahou standout who coached the Buffanblu to the school's only state football titles in 2008 and 2013, played on a Kansas City Chiefs team with most of the players who won the 1969 Super Bowl.

"It's crazy to have the Lions and Chiefs to be in it," Kale said in a phone interview on Friday. "It's pretty cool."

The Chiefs play at the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC crown in the early game today, while the Lions travel to play the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC title.

While Kale mentioned that the Chiefs are in it every year — six years in a row in the AFC title game, to be exact — the Lions haven't. In fact, until this season, the Lions' last playoff win was in 1991.

So for long-suffering Lions fans the 66-season wait for the NFL title has been long enough.

It was 1957 when the Lions last tasted an NFL title. Coincidentally, in a playoff semifinal, they beat the franchise they're playing today — the 49ers, who blew a 27-7 third-quarter lead and suffered a 31-27 loss that would haunt them for decades. A week later in the NFL championship, the Lions, with a homefield tiebreaker, beat the Cleveland Browns and a rookie named Jim Brown 59-14 at Briggs Stadium in Detroit for their second title in five seasons.

The Lions were rock solid in those years and played for titles in 1952, '53, '54 and '57— all against the powerful Browns — and won it in 1953 and 1957.

The Lions roster was loaded with Hall of Fame players such as Yale Larry, Joe Schmidt, Lou Creekmur and Bobby Layne, as well as Heisman Trophy winner Howard "Hopalong" Cassady. Among that cast of stars was the territory of Hawaii's own star — Charlie Ane, who died in 2007 and would have turned 93 on Thursday.

The former Punahou and USC star played with the Lions from 1953 to 1960 and was a Pro Bowl tackle and center in 1956 and 1958 while being "really welcomed by everybody in Detroit."

Charlie's son, Kale, who is actually Charlie Ane III (there's also a Charlie Ane IV and V), has no recollection of the 1957 championship season but has joyful memories of his time in Detroit.

"I was 5," Kale said. "I got to go to games occasionally when they played in Detroit. I don't know where we were living, but it was 30 minutes from (Briggs Stadium)."

Kale recalled that his father "would always leave on weekends for away games. But he always brought back presents. When we got too excited about that, he said, 'Is that the only reason you guys are happy to see me?' 'No, we love you ... where are the presents?' "

Little did Kale know that he was surrounded by greatness.

"(When) I was 6, I had my birthday party in the stadium while they were practicing," Kale said. "That was great. We got to take all my friends. The world champion Lions were practicing on one part of the stadium and we were just running around on the other side.

"In the locker room, they had the old soda pop vending machine, which to us was amazing because everything was free. I don't remember anybody's name, but I remember the soda pop machine. Oh, this is the world champions, this is the Heisman Trophy winner. (I had) no idea."

Kale remembers that his father's pro career could have gone in another direction, if not for a rude introduction.

"He could have played baseball, too," Kale said. "But he said baseball takes too long. You have to go to the minor leagues. In football, you go straight to the pros. You don't have to wait 3-4 years to get to the big leagues."

"They won the College World Series when he was at SC, so every year the College World Series champ would play the major league champion. He was a pitcher."

A 1971 scorecard on showed a Yankees lineup that featured Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio and a USC lineup that included Ane among the pitching staff.

"They (the Yankees) intimidated the hell out of him. Any time he (pitched) too close to them, they'd step out, point the bat at him, (and said) 'You don't do that. You better not hit any of us.' That might have encouraged him to play football," Kale said.

Charlie left USC early (his junior year) and was drafted in the fourth round (49th overall) by the Lions in 1953. The 6-foot-2, 260-pounder was a backup center his rookie season and became the starting right tackle the next season. When players were introduced, Charlie Ane would often be the first out of the tunnel. Because of that, the Ane name became familiar in the Midwest.

Kale said when he went to school at Michigan State, "everybody knew the name. ... (They'd ask) are you related to that guy? 'Yeah, that's my dad,'" Kale said. "He was always talked about in that fashion."

Although he played collegiately in Rams country, Charlie became a "die-hard Lions fan," Kale said. "My mom was always a Lions fan. And Honolulu blue (one of the team's colors) just made it even better.

"He loved Barry Sanders because Barry Sanders always gave the ball back to the referee when he scored. There was no big production. He liked (Matthew) Stafford. He liked Chris Spielman. Tough guys, hard-working guys, team guys. You know Rocky (Kamehameha alum Rockne Freitas) played there."

Kale, however, leans more toward the Chiefs as far as loyalties.

The 6-foot-1, 233-pound center made the Kansas City roster as an undrafted free agent and played for the Chiefs from 1975 to 1980.

"I like Kansas City because they took a chance on me," Kale said. "The people are awesome, the coaches were great.

"I came when the old guys got old. (Len) Dawson was still there, Buck Buchanon, Willie Lanier, Eddie Podolak and Ed Budde. I remember Otis Taylor. They were there. My first year, I came into the locker room and I read about all these guys growing up. Wow, that's Otis Taylor, there's Willie Lanier. And I got to block Willie Lanier because he plays middle linebacker (and) I'm the center."

But one of his memorable introductions to the NFL and the Chiefs occurred during a one-on-one practice drill.

"All the offensive linemen look over to the defensive linemen to figure out who they can take on, who they can be capable against," Kale said. "I had a guy figured out. I get to the front (of the line and) all of a sudden Buck Buchanon comes from way back, (and says) 'Oh, I think I'm going to go against the Hawaiian today."

Kale said he was quick to point out there was another offensive lineman from Hawaii on the team — Saint Louis alum Jim Nicholson (6-6, 270).

"There's another one over here," Kale said to Buchanon, who answered back, "'No, no, I wanna see you.'

"That was brutal. He just tossed me. I was only 230 (pounds). ... He was 6-7. He was every bit of 275 to 290."

As for today's Chiefs-Ravens matchup, Kale said, "It's gonna be a good game. It's hard to bet against either of those quarterbacks. (Patrick) Mahomes is so clutch and Lamar (Jackson) is so fast.

"I'm just going to be supportive and go with Kansas City."

And in the NFC?

"Everybody in Hawaii loves the 49ers," he said. "I have to go with the Lions.

"That would be so crazy for them (Chiefs and Lions) to get into the Super Bowl this year."


Ane family friend Bill Chandler contributed to this report.