This week’s HTYH is a continuation of Larry’s story: The day after the Jets won the Super Bowl, and beat the Baltimore Colts 16 to 7, things started happening in my life-immediately. The Jets became the first American Football team to ever win a Super Bowl. When we returned to NY City they had a ticker tape parade down Madison and Fifth Avenue for the team. The people threw confetti out the windows of those high-rise office buildings and it rained down on our convertibles. I said to myself, “Life doesn’t get any better than this-you have arrived!” I proved to the people in that little town down in Mississippi that we can be somebody. On January 23, over 5,000 people showed up in my hometown and they had a banquet and named a day after me. The Mayor gave my family and I the key to the city just like the Mayor of NY did the Jets. That was in 1968 and I continued to play pro-football until 1973.
I’m not blaming anything on pro-football because it provided me with a wonderful career, but it’s a lonely life. We couldn’t make long-term plans because we never knew if we would have a job the next week or not. We knew we still had a job if we got paid on Tuesday. Whatever problems came as a result of our wild escapades soon disappeared into thin air because we were the Super Bowl Champions.
By 1973 it was time for me to retire my position as a right side linebacker for the Jets. I was 35 years old and had played pro-football for 13 years. At the beginning of the game when the announcer says your name and you run out onto the field the fans go wild and it inflated my ego-I had become an egomaniac. After I retired, I returned to my hometown where my wife and family were involved in community affairs and everything that goes with being good citizens. Two years later I was the town drunk. I’m not proud of that and it’s not the thing I’d like for you to remember about me.
I was not employable and if I got a job, I lost it to alcohol. Nobody wanted me around, and I couldn’t pay my bills. I blamed it on not being a quarterback because they got all of the money and glory and I was just a low-paid linebacker. My life spun out of control and I had nothing to hang on to. I had a series of traffic accidents so The State of Mississippi asked me to stop driving on their roads, but I didn’t go to jail because I wore that Super Bowl ring. All the cops down there liked football and when they stopped me I’d show them my Super Bowl ring and I’d tell them some football stories and they’d let me go. I didn’t need a driver’s license because I had a Super Bowl ring. In 1980 my wife of 21 years divorced me and as a reason for our divorce she put in the newspaper that I was a chronic alcoholic. I was a college graduate and played on the team that won the Super Bowl and she wasn’t even a college graduate.
I decided to get out of Dodge and start over—take the geographical cure. The banks had repossessed my house and cars and I couldn’t even pay for the divorce, but it couldn’t be the alcohol that was causing the bad things to happen. Alcohol was my best friend…I thought. Alcohol was a solution to my problems and if something good happened then I celebrated with alcohol—alcohol couldn’t be the problem. Although I believed I was taking the geographical cure it was a more truthfully, unlawful flight to avoid prosecution?
I moved across the state line to Memphis, Tennessee some two hundred miles north and soon discovered they got the dumbest cops there I’d ever crossed paths with. The Tennessee cops would ask to see my driver’s license and I’d show them my Super Bowl ring and they would say, “No, sir, I asked to see your driver’s license not your ring,” and they took me to jail. I finally figured out that Memphis is a basketball town and my Super Bowl ring meant nothing to them. To be continued.