Super Bowl Memories
Tony Dorsett, Mel Renfro, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, and Tim Brown reflect on how the Super Bowl changed their lives.
No matter what Duane Thomas said, there is nothing like it, the Super Bowl, the ultimate game—for that season—in the NFL, and maybe worldwide.
The game has made guys and broken guys; has made careers and destroyed careers; has landed guys in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or has kept them out; and in the end, win or lose, has affected the post-football lives of many a player.
Sure, former Dallas Cowboys running back Duane Thomas said after the Cowboys finally won their first Super Bowl following the 1971 season (Super Bowl VI, beating Miami, 24-3, on Jan. 16, 1972, at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans):
“If it’s the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?”
With Super Bowl XLV less than a year away, the first to be played in North Texas, we thought we just might have the answer for ol’ Duane’s skepticism—a walk down memory lane with some of the greatest football legends North Texas has to offer. Some won big in the ultimate game, some didn’t. All had their lives changed by the experience.
Here, and in parts 2 and 3 of this series on pages 100 and 126, you’ll learn in their own words exactly how.
(Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowls XII, XIII)
Playing in the Super Bowl meant everything to me as an athlete, no question about it, but especially now. I have a greater appreciation of [playing in the Super Bowl] now than I did back then because as the years have gone by you see so many of the great players who played the game but didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the Super Bowl, and that makes it even that more meaningful. Let me tell you something, I went to two Super Bowls my first two years in the league, and it was the biggest extravaganza I ever thought could be possible on earth—the greatest show on earth, the greatest show on turf.
But when it really hit me about being in the Super Bowl is when I watched my son [Anthony] when he was playing for the Tennessee Titans [Super Bowl XXXIV], and when I was down on the sideline. When they started playing the National Anthem, all these thoughts started going through my head. I’m thinking about Jim Brown, Barry Sanders. I’m thinking about Gale Sayers, all these great runners and great players that played in the National Football League that didn’t have a chance to play in the ‘ultimate game.’ But here’s my son, my baby boy, having the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, and it took all the strength in my body to just stand there; there were tears just flowing and I got real emotional about it. Because it is the biggest thing in sports in this country. It’s a world-wide extravaganza. And not just play in it but to win it—people don’t remember a lot of times the bridesmaid, they remember the world champions, and to be a world champion, man it means a whole lot to me.
I remember the first one [Super Bowl XII] because I scored the first touchdown. I was a rookie, and here I was coming back to the same city [New Orleans] that I previously won a national championship at the University of Pittsburgh back in the same stadium [Superdome], and to score the first touchdown as a rookie, that meant a lot to me. And the second one, I had a chance to go against my hometown team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and you talk about somebody that was geeked up.
(Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowls V, VI, X, XII)
It feels fantastic to win a Super Bowl. I was fortunate enough to go to four of them, and play in eight NFC Championship games. The first [Super Bowl] was most exciting, but we lost it to Baltimore [16-13], but we came back the next year and won it against Miami [24-3]. You hoop and holler after the game and try to let it settle in, and then you realize you’re world champions—world champions—and that will stay with you for about two or three months, then it leaves you because you got to try to do it again.
(Oakland Raiders, Super Bowl XXXVII)
For me, by the time I got to the Super Bowl, it was year 15 [of my career], so I just wanted to play in the Super Bowl, and had almost given up. I just wanted to get there and play, but once you get there you want to make sure things get done. Obviously we fell way short of that [losing to Tampa Bay, 48-21]. But the experience man, I just remember running on the field, standing in the middle of the field and taking a panoramic view of the stadium, and it’s something you never forget. Because playing [at Dallas’ Woodrow Wilson High School] and going 4-25 my three years on varsity and a tough two, 2½ years at Notre Dame, and then played that senior year, winning eight or nine games, and then to be pretty much up and down my NFL career. So to win is what it is all about, but to be in a position to have an opportunity to win a championship was just remarkable.
Ed “Too Tall” Jones
(Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowls X, XII, XIII)
The moment I remember was 1977 after we beat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl [XII, 27-10]. I was on the bus riding back to the hotel, sitting next to Harvey Martin, and I touched Harvey Martin and said, “Do you realize tomorrow morning when we wake up we are world champions?” And I say that because you can’t really explain what it’s like, that feeling in words. But I do wish every player who had an impact on the game could have experienced that. I talk about guys that I idolized—Deacon Jones with the Rams, the Purple People Eaters’ Carl Eller and all those guys. I shot a commercial not long ago with Dan Dierdorf, who was a lot like Rayfield Wright. And Dan told me, “Ed, I played 13 years and I would trade 12 to, not win it, but to experience playing in a Super Bowl.” And Dan meant a lot to the game.