The New York Jets Center was sick for the entirety of the Super Bowl.
As he recalls it;
“We win the game and it was phenomenal,” Schmitt recalls. “We come in, we’re saying the Our Father and Joe [namath] was right next to me. And I lose my facilities. I start whining right in the middle of the Our Father.”
Broadway Joe didn’t wait to have his trespasses forgiven.
“Joe looks at me and says, ‘Schmitty, no offense, but I’m out of here.’ He didn’t want to share my puddle with me,” Schmitt says.
All these years later, Schmitt howls with laughter at one of his “biggest memories” from the biggest game in franchise history, the game that made the Super Bowl truly Super. He’s a lasting treasure from a game that never ends for him.
In fact, just a couple of years ago, he got back his Super Bowl ring that had been lost for 40 years.
Schmitt, who grew up in Patchogue, Long Island and played high school football for Seton Hall, He was one of several 1969 Jets who hailed from the New York and New Jersey area.
“The idea of a kid from Hofstra, an $8,500 free agent from 1964 going to a Super Bowl, it was unbelievable. I was so excited,” he said. “But I started to get sick during the (AFL) Championship Game against Oakland and then I really got sick.
“I was the only center. I never missed a game,” he explained. “But Coach (Weeb) Ewbank, he didn’t like to spend a lot of money, so we never had a backup center. So we go down to Florida and start practicing and I can barely walk. I can hardly stand up, coughing up this blood and green-and-yellow stuff and they think I’m allergic to penicillin so they’re not giving me anything. But Coach Ewbank, in his wisdom, says, ‘Look, Schmitty, you’ve got to practice every day because the newspaper guys are around here and you don’t want them to pick up that you’re sick, the other team. Nobody will hit you, but you can’t let anybody know you’re sick.’
“So by Thursday of that week, I couldn’t walk, so I went into Coach Ewbank and said, ‘Coach, you’ve got to let me have some penicillin. I’m going to die anyway. If I die from taking it, fine. Just let me try it.’ So I did. But I was so far down in energy, so sick for so long.”
Sunday comes. Now people are hitting him.
“The Jets sent us a film of the game as a Christmas present the next year,” he said. “You see me running to the line of scrimmage in the first quarter, the second quarter you see me jogging, the third quarter see me walking and the fourth quarter you see Dave Herman and Randy Rasmussen carrying me to the line of scrimmage. I’m not kidding you.”
John Schmitt, center on 1968-69 NY Jets, Super Bowl III team lived a true miracle.
Coach Ewbank comes out. He’s got a copy of the Miami Herald under his arm. He always called Joe ‘Joseph.’ He goes, ‘Joseph,’ — and Joe had bloodshot eyes from the night before — he turns to Coach Ewbank and says, ‘yes Coach?’
And he shows him the headline, “Namath Guarantees Win.”
“Weeb was pissed,” as Schmitt tells it. He said, ‘You know what they’re going to do with this Joe? They’re going to put this up on the locker-room walls, they’re going to want to kill us. ‘Why’d you do it, why’d you do it, Joe?’ ”
Namath saw the smoke coming out of Ewbank’s ears.
“You’ve been telling us all week we’re going to win, don’t you think we’re going to win? It’s no big deal.”
It was a big deal, Schmitt said, because when the Colts came out in the first quarter, “they really wanted to f—— to kill us.
“But in the second quarter, we got it under control, and then Matt Snell started to run. When we scored that touchdown, they had not had a touchdown scored against them on the ground all season, and they were in shock.”
One reason for the Colts’ pregame confidence was that they knew Ewbank’s checkoff system from when he coached in Baltimore. He never changed it.
“But in the second half, Joe ran a check-with-me system,” Schmitt explained. “In other words we didn’t call a play in the huddle. We waited to get to the line of scrimmage. Joe would call a fake set of numbers. And they would shift to our right side and we’d run away from it. We had them going crazy because the second set of numbers was the live one. They were fighting among themselves.”
It was the upset for the ages as Schmitt discovered personally as he and his wife prepared for the team party.
He was trying to recover from his illness, still beat up from the game, Schmitt was almost falling asleep as his wife was trying on dresses in a store the next day for the team party.
“She had a beautiful young girl waiting on her and she was bringing more dresses in and out. She strikes up a conversation. I wasn’t in the mood to talk a lot. But she asks, ‘were you down for the game?’ And I said, ‘Yeah,’ and then back and forth, ‘Did you play in the game? For the winning team?’ And I said, ‘yeah.’ That’s all I said. She jumped on me. She’s hugging and kissing me and my wife comes out of the dressing room and says, ‘Am I interrupting anything?’ And the girl says, ‘You don’t understand Mrs. Schmitt. I’m sorry. But we just got married six months ago. We had $600 in the bank. He took $500 out and put it on the Jets, no points, 10-1 odds. We won $5,000.”
“It was the greatest. To be 17½-point underdogs and to not have a cut dog’s chances of winning in everybody’s eyes, wow.’ ”
Two years after the Super Bowl, Schmitt was surfing on Waikiki, wearing his ring. When he emerged from the Pacific after multiple wipeouts, he discovered his super bowl ring was gone.
“I went back out with set of flippers and a snorkel and nearly drowned looking for it but I was sick,”
In October of 2011, Schmitt got a call from Bob Corrente of the Jets, asking if he was sitting down. He told him a lady from Honolulu had his ring.
“My exact words were, ‘No f——’ way,” Schmitt said.
“In 1973, two years after Schmitt lost the ring, a lifeguard was snorkeling in 20 feet of water and saw something glistening in the sand. He brought it home and stuck it in a box for 38 years. When he passed away, his niece went over to clean out his apartment.”
“A small box falls out of this pair of shoes and it was my Super Bowl ring,” Schmitt said. “It was a miracle. He didn’t know what he had. He was a lifeguard making 50 bucks a week. They took it to a friend who worked for ESPN in Honolulu and he said, “That’s a Super Bowl ring. It’s John Schmitt. He was the center for Joe Namath.’
“They said, ‘that was so long ago, he must be dead.’ ”
He’s far from dead, and has stories that will last forever.