2001-07-13 / Front Page
Former Jets star enjoys retirement in Monroe Randy Beverly, now 57, was a key player for the Jets in Super Bowl III
Former Jets star enjoys retirement in Monroe
Randy Beverly, now 57, was a key player for the Jets in Super Bowl III
He went into the game known as the little guy who would get run out of the park, but he came out proving that football is as much about brains as it is size.
Monroe Township resident Randy Beverly may have been only 5 feet 11 inches tall and 190 pounds, but to Baltimore Colts quarterbacks in Super Bowl III, he was a monster.
Beverly, then in his second year as a cornerback for the New York Jets, had two interceptions in the game and helped the Jets dominate a potent Colts offense, holding it to only one touchdown.
While the Jets’ defense ranked No. 1 during the regular season, its pass defense was considered somewhat porous going into the Super Bowl game in January 1969. In fact, oddsmakers had the Jets as 18-point underdogs, with some predicting they would lose 55-0. The Jets had finished the regular season 11-3, but the Colts were 13-1 and considered one of the best teams ever.
Making matters worse was the fact that the Colts’ starting quarterback, Earl Morrall, was the league’s MVP.
Too bad the Jets’ defense didn’t let him last more than two and a half quarters.
Due to his ineffectiveness — he was 6 for 17 with three interceptions — Morrall was pulled in the third quarter and replaced by Johnny Unitas, who had been injured early in the season and was past his prime. He admitted prior to the game that he wasn’t ready to play, and it showed as he was almost as ineffective as Morrall.
Of course, the Jets’ defense didn’t give him much of a chance, harassing him with a fierce pass rush and blanketing his receivers.
And the guy who was going to get "run out of the park" intercepted a pass in the end zone during the second half, thereby halting the Colts’ best chance to get back into the game.
The victory was a sign that the new, brash New York Jets and the AFL were indeed for real.
Winning the Super Bowl and helping the fledgling AFL gain respect are just a couple of the things Beverly remembers best from his NFL career.
"During the preseason of my rookie year, I was told that the only way I could make the team was if I were a starter," he said, still relishing the challenge offered him.
In those days, starting cornerbacks were not always early-round draft picks as they are nowadays. Beverly, in fact, wasn’t drafted at all; he was signed as a rookie free agent out of Colorado State University. And the draft had 17 rounds then.
"But they weren’t happy with the starter they had," he said. "It was a lot of pressure, but I loved the sport and I loved the game. I did all the necessary things it took to survive."
He had to. In those days, the signing bonuses were small — he said he received $500 — as were the contracts. Beverly’s one-year $12,500 contract was a far cry from what a Deion Sanders, or even a rookie free agent cornerback, would make today.
"And in those days, if you didn’t play, you didn’t get paid," he said. "There were one-year contracts, so every year when you would go to camp, you would be fighting for a position. There were no guarantees."
And no room for malingerers, holdouts, malcontents or prima donnas there.
In 1968, Beverly was the starter and a key member of the Jets’ dominant defense. The team went 11-3 and were the AFL East champs.
In those days, there were two rival leagues — the AFL and the NFL. In 1966, they agreed they would merge in 1970 and, until then, play a championship game at the end of each season. The first two games they played were not known as Super Bowls yet; they were simply called championship games. The first game to be officially christened by Commissioner Pete Rozelle as a "Super Bowl" was the Jets-Colts game.
The AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders had lost the first two championship games to the Vince Lombardi-led Green Bay Packers. Heading into Super Bowl III, the AFL was viewed by many as a "Mickey Mouse league." To make matters worse, the Jets were considered cocky, brash upstarts who would further embarrass the AFL. As if that weren’t pressure enough, Jets quarterback Joe Namath boldly predicted a Jets victory.
"I guarantee it," he said to dozens of incredulous reporters.
The Jets had defeated the AFL West champion Oakland Raiders 27-23 in the championship game, and though they felt invincible at that point, the rest of the country felt differently — 18 points differently, in fact.
"The week before the Super Bowl against the Baltimore Colts, we were 21-point underdogs," Beverly said. "It was the third Super Bowl, so the pressure was really on because our league had lost the first two games.
"We looked at the Colts and saw some weaknesses and what their strengths were," he continued. "We felt our strengths were more than theirs and our weaknesses less."
Ironically, Beverly said, the toughest job head coach Weeb Ewbank had wasn’t keeping the players’ spirits up — despite the fact that they were three-touchdown underdogs — but keeping them from getting overconfident.
"The toughest job Weeb had was to not let us say all we wanted to," Beverly said. "By looking at the film, we said there was no way we could lose to those guys. But Weeb feared we would become overconfident and start to take the Colts lightly."
So why in the world did that Namath guy then go before reporters and guarantee a Jets victory?
"He was kind of cornered by reporters, and they kept pressuring him to make a prediction," Beverly said. "Joe just said what we all felt but couldn’t say. It took a lot of pressure off of us, ’cause now it was out. Now we didn’t just have to walk around with it."
The comment also made national headlines and drew even more attention to the game, which at the time was nowhere near the spectacle it is today.
In fact, the first two championship games, which in retrospect are called Super Bowls, were somewhat of a disappointment from an attendance standpoint. And they had the legend himself, Vince Lombardi, roaming the sidelines.
Namath played up to the boast he made. But Beverly made sure Joe’s hubris didn’t come back to smack him in the shoulder pads.
In the first quarter, the Colts drove right down the field on the Jets. But Beverly stepped up (and looked up) and turned things around.
"They were on our 10-yard line and thought they were going in," he said. "A pass from their quarterback, Earl Morrall, hit our middle guard, then their tight end’s shoulder pads, and went up in the air. I managed to track it down, bring it in and down it in the end zone."
The Jets led the game in the third quarter, but the Colts, this time under Unitas, drove the field again.
But again Beverly came to the rescue.
"Unitas was trying to throw a crossing pattern to his wide receiver. I stepped in front of him in the end zone, intercepted the ball and downed it again," he said.
The Colts did score late in the fourth quarter, but by then it was too little, too late. The Jets had stunned the world, winning 16-7.
Namath won the MVP award for the game, and the AFL finally won some respect. Both had Beverly to thank, along with fullback Matt Snell, who rushed for 121 yards and whom many say was the real MVP.
The next Super Bowl was a wash, and the leagues merged in 1970.
Beverly went on to play another year with the Jets, spent some time with the Patriots and then played in the World League.
"Most of the good things that happened, I can’t tell you. They’re not printable," he said looking back.
But, aside from the Super Bowl, Beverly said the pressure to win the starting job is what stands out most for him.
But cornerbacks in those days also had an everlasting impact on the way the game is played, he claims.
"We kind of invented the bump and run," he said, referring to the coverage technique during which cornerbacks line up right across from receivers and hit them at the line of scrimmage in an attempt to throw off their routes and timing with the quarterback.
"But the league had us back off in the first three yards" in an attempt to help the receivers get open and thus the offense score more points, he said.
"We would put the fear of God into [the receivers], though. We had receivers then who talked trash all the time, but they didn’t have as many cameras and mics to pick it up as they do now," he said.
Beverly said the best wideouts he had to cover in those days were the Jets’ own George Sauer, during practice, and the Chargers’ Lance Alworth.
"To me, anyone who stepped out, I had to shut them down," he said.
Beverly said he still goes to all of the Jets’ home games, along with about 30 other alumni.
"Players love the new coach; he’s a player’s coach," Beverly said of Al Groh, who last season replaced Bill Parcells as head coach. "There’s a whole different atmosphere around the camp."
Beverly, now 57, has lived in Monroe for nine years, and though he said he’s not ready yet, he acknowledges he’s not far from moving into a retirement community there.
"I figured it was a great town to live in," he said. "Low crime, low taxes, good schools and the best senior retirement community in New Jersey."