Waters’ Legacy Includes First Shotgun Touchdown

Times Staff Writer

Bob Waters, who coached college football from a wheelchair the last few years before he died Monday in North Carolina, is remembered in California as one of the National Football League’s three original shotgun formation quarterbacks.

Waters, in fact, threw the first touchdown pass ever from a shotgun formation.

That was in November, 1960, when, in a 30-22 upset, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Baltimore Colts. The Colts, with Hall of Famer John Unitas at quarterback, won the NFL’s ’58 and ’59 championships.

Beginning in 1960, Waters alternated with shotgun quarterbacks Y.A. Tittle and John Brodie in the formation invented by 49er Coach Howard W. (Red) Hickey, who is now retired in Santa Monica.


A year later, the alternates were Brodie, Waters and Billy Kilmer.

Since 1968, Waters coached at Western Carolina University, where he was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in 1983. ALS attacks the body’s nervous system and renders muscles useless.

Waters was replaced after spring practice a few weeks ago and died Monday at 50.

Shotgun football is often associated with Tom Landry, who coached the Dallas Cowboys for 29 years before being fired after last season. But in 1960, with the champion Colts coming up, it was the new attack that Hickey said the 49ers, who had won only half of their eight games, needed.


Waters, playing most of the game after Tittle and Brodie were hurt, led the way. The first shotgun points came on a play that started as a pass to tight end Dee Mackey, who lateraled to halfback-receiver R.C. Owens, who scored.

Tittle, Brodie and Waters went on to win three of their last four games but came up just short of the 1960 title game, losing in the December mud to Coach Vince Lombardi’s first division champion Green Bay Packers, 13-0.