Part 1 – REDLANDS IN THE SUPER BOWL

Patrick Johnson, who caught a pass in Super Bowl XX, nearly made a diving catch for a touchdown against the New York Giants.

Jim Weatherwax, who played in the fabled Ice Bowl game against Dallas, had a hand in helping Green Bay win its first two Super Bowl titles.

Brian Billick basked in the glow of his name joining names like Landry and Shula, Noll and Parcells, Walsh and Gibbs on the Lombardi Trophy. Curiously, eventual five-time Lombardi Trophy celebrant Bill Belichick would join that list after Billick.

Welcome to the Redlands Connection-Super Bowl edition. That trio of former Redlands football players – Johnson (1994 graduate), Weatherwax (1961) and Billick (1972) – has surfaced in America’s greatest sporting spectacle.

It’s easy to break it down, too. Johnson’s speed. Weatherwax’s strength. Billick’s brains. It culminated with a spot in pro football immortality.

Johnson’s path to the Super Bowl might have been the shortest. He graduated from Redlands in 1994, committed to the University of Oregon and was selected in the second round of the 1998 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens.

Weatherwax left Redlands after graduating in 1961, headed for Cal State Los Angeles before transferring to West Texas A&M in Canyon, Texas before Green Bay selected him in the 11th round of the 1965 draft.

Billick’s path took him to the Air Force Academy, eventually transferring to Brigham Young University. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, but his career wasn’t on the playing field. He coached in Redlands, San Diego, Logan, Utah, and Palo Alto (Stanford) before surfacing as an assistant coach for Denny Green in Minnesota. By 1999, Billick was head coach of the Ravens.

It almost seems like pro football didn’t exist before 1967. That was the year when the National Football League champion played the American Football League champion for professional football’s world title. It was a first.

In the seven years since the AFL had been developed, the league held its own championship. The Houston Oilers, Dallas Texans (future Kansas City Chiefs), San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills had won AFL titles.

NFL titles during that same span mostly went to Green Bay (1961-62, ’65) with the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and the Cleveland Browns also winning pre-Super Bowl championships in those years.

SUPER BOWL ERA BEGINS

By the 1966 season, with 1967 showcasing the first AFL-NFL title game, the Super Bowl era was born.

In fact, Super Bowl terminology had yet to become adopted. The game was billed simply as the AFL-NFL Championship Game.

Green Bay going up against Kansas City was quite a spectacle.

It was the AFL’s best team going up against the NFL’s best. Vince Lombardi’s Packers playing Hank Stram’s Chiefs.

Redlands had a representative right in the middle of that package. It was none other than Weatherwax, known to his friends back in Redlands as “Waxie.”

MJS Jim Weatherwax
Redlands’ Jim Weatherwax of the Green Bay Packers. (Journal Sentinel file photo, 1966)

Weatherwax, for his part, played plenty in the second half of both games. He was seen spelling starters Ron Kostelnik and Henry Jordan on a few plays in the first half of Super Bowl II.

That particular game had been set up by the famous Ice Bowl game of 1967. That NFL Championship showdown came down to Bart Starr’s last-second quarterback sneak for a touchdown that beat the Dallas Cowboys on the “frozen tundra” of Green Bay.

That play hinged on the blocks of Packers’ center Ken Bowman and guard Jerry Kramer, who blocked Cowboys’ defensive tackle Jethro Pugh. That play, that win ultimately led the Packers into the second Super Bowl, this one against Oakland in Miami.

Pugh, incidentally, was picked in that 1966 NFL draft five players ahead of Weatherwax in the 11th round.

Green Bay, of course, won both championship games. The Packers, thus, set NFL history in virtual stone.

“That (second Super Bowl) was Lombardi’s last game,” said Weatherwax. “You should’ve heard the guys before the game, Kramer in particular. ‘Let’s win it for the old man.’ That’s what he was saying. Looking back, you couldn’t do anything but think that was special.”

Vince_lombardi_bart_starr Photo credit unkown
Legendary Green Bay Packers’ coach Vince Lombardi and quarterback Bart Starr are pictured. Redlands’ Jim Weatherwax was Starr’s teammate in Green Bay’s 1967 and 1968 Super Bowl championships. (Photo by Green Bay Packers)

AFL, NFL TACTICS LED TO MERGER

It was that first Super Bowl, however, that proved itself worthy of attention.

There was bitterness between the two leagues. The AFL started in 1960. Hopes were to provide enough competition that the old NFL would be forced to allow AFL teams into the NFL hierarchy.

When the NFL’s New York Giants signed Buffalo Bills’ placekicker Pete Gogolak in 1965 – thus stealing the first player from the AFL – the war between the two leagues was on. Finally, after much negotiation, many tactics, various shenanigans, the two leagues would be consolidated into one. The AFL forced the NFL’s hand.

They called it the AFL-NFL merger.

Some of those bitter feelings were on display in the Jan. 15, 1967 Super Bowl. Played at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The quarterbacks: Bart Starr against Lenny Dawson.

The coaches: Lombardi against Stram.

The referees: Six overall, including three from the AFL and three from the NFL, including head referee Norm Schachter, who started his officiating career 26 years earlier when he started his teaching career in Redlands.

The networks: The AFL’s NBC would be telecasting against the NFL’s CBS. Jim Simpson was on the radio.

Tough talk: Part of that first Super Bowl was the chatter emanating from the mouth of Chiefs’ defensive back Fred Williamson. Who could forget Williamson, who had a future in the movies?

Known as “The Hammer” for his vicious hits, Williamson boasted that his severe forearm shiver into the helmets of Packers’ receivers would knock them from the game. It was part of the well-hyped buildup, perhaps part of that bitter feeling between the two leagues.

As the game played out, it was “The Hammer” who was carried from the Coliseum field.

Weatherwax, meanwhile, was playing behind the likes of Willie Davis and Bob Brown, Kostelnik and Jordan – Green Bay’s legendary defensive linemen.

The Redlander gave a short chuckle as “The Hammer.” Weatherwax said, “I can’t really say what happened out there.”

Translation: He knew what happened, all right.

Kostelnik chasing Garrett (Photo by WordPress.com)
Kansas City’s Mike Garrett, 21 with ball, is being chased by Green Bay defensive tackle Ron Kostelnik during the first-ever championship game between the National Football League champion Packers and the American Football League champion Chiefs. Photo by WordPress.com)

Part of the legend: Starr’s 37-yard TD pass to Max McGee, the first touchdown in Super Bowl history, was followed by Green Bay’s kickoff to the Chiefs. When Packers’ placekicker Don Chandler sent his kick in the direction of Kansas City’s Mike Garrett, it was Weatherwax who drove the onetime college Heisman Trophy winner out of bounds.

There were a few times that Weatherwax, part owner of restaurant in Orange County, later moving to Colorado, sat next to my desk. He’d shown up visiting old friends. Part of those visits included stopping by the Daily Facts. This dates back to the 1980s and 1990s. Sharing stories. Sharing memories. Showing off his championship jewelry. Great guy. Helpful. Willing to talk.

It was a huge part of a Redlands Connection.

Part 2 – About Super Bowl XXXV tomorrow.

SCHACHTER: FLAGGED FOR BAD CALL BY ROZELLE

NFL head referee Norm Schachter, whose early beginnings in education and officiating took place in Redlands, is shown at halftime with Kansas City Chiefs’ coach Hank Stram at the first Super Bowl at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Note: Schachter was known for wearing jersey No. 56, so it’s unclear why he’s wearing No. 60. Unknown photo credit, most likely by Associated Press.

NORM SCHACHTER, it should be noted, was suspended along with his entire six-man crew, by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. During a crucial game between Los Angeles and Chicago on Dec. 8, 1968, Schachter’s crew denied the Rams a crucial down in a 17-16 loss to the Bears.

You never hear about stuff like that. Fifteen years later, I had a chance to ask Schachter about the play. About the call. About the suspension.

Rozelle, who played his part in Redlands during his days as the Rams’ public relations man, called the crew “competent.”

The Rams, though, had thrown three incomplete passes in the late stages of that game. A penalty flag was thrown into the mix. The down, however, was not replayed.

“The ball was turned over to Chicago,” Rozelle said in his statement, “thus depriving Los Angeles of a fourth down play to which it was entitled.”

Five seconds were remaining. Ball at L.A.’s 47. Thirty-one yards were needed for a first down.

Schachter was a class act. He came to Redlands a few times during my years at the local newspaper. Most of those visits came in the 1980s and 1990s. Seems he had some remaining “connections” there that continued for many years despite such a brief stay in Redlands during his early days.

I think guys like former student Jim Sloan, a photographer who, among others, were happy to pronounce a connection to a guy that had a bird’s eye view of pro football.

OTHER REFS FROM LOCAL AREA

There were other officials from the area, including Redlands’ John Fouch, Sr. Down the road a bit, from Rialto, was Al Jury.

Fouch, a major high school star at Santa Ana High School turned into a superstar at Santa Ana Junior College before heading off to USC, where he shared the 1949 Trojan backfield with future NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford.

JOhn Fouch, Sr
John Fouch, Sr., a Santa Ana product who moved to Redlands to raise his family, played in the same USC backfield as Frank Gifford, eventually spending 15 years as an NFL referee (photo by Santa Ana College).

Fouch wore NFL zebra stripes for 15 years. The head referee in his crew was Red Cashion, the guy with the enthusiastically signature, “first dowwwwwwn” call. Eventually, Fouch moved to Redlands.

After all those years away, Schachter still seemed impressed with Redlands despite moving from the small orange grove-covered community.

Schachter was generous to me with his time and comments.

Redlands, he said, “was a very nice little community when I taught and reffed here.”

Schachter carried around a significant sense of humor. He proved it with some of his responses.

I spent several minutes prepping for my interview with him. Was there ever a moment where you made a bad call – and knew it? (The suspension question would come later.)

“I don’t waste time second-guessing myself,” he said. “There’ll be millions who will do it for you.”

Talk on an NFL field must be pretty horrifying.

“Oh, really?” he said. “I never heard that.”

Sarcasm was a nice little exercise for Schachter, who probably heard it all.

“Listen,” he said, “when players lose it in their legs, they gain it in their mouths.”

Oh, yeah. It was Sloan who told me to ask him about the time his crew had been suspended.

Refs aren’t perfect, though they’re probably expected to be. That December 1968 game between the Rams and Bears might have been his lowest point.

“Holding call on the Rams,” he said, explaining the suspension. “Fifteen yards in those days. Spot foul, too. We didn’t replay the down. That was the issue.”

He looked at me. Anything else? It was like he was saying, “I dare you to ask me anything more about it.”

So I took the dare. “How many times have you been asked about that?”

That drew a slight chuckle. “I lost count around 20,000 …”

I hadn’t even planned this next question. “Ever think about the fact that it was Rozelle, that he used to work for the Rams, that suspended you?”

I can’t even recall Schachter’s response. Since I didn’t put it in my article, I didn’t record it for posterity.

It was only a six-man crew during that era. It wasn’t until 1978 that a side judge was added, making NFL officiating crews a seven-man unit. The afore-mentioned Jury was one of those “seventh” men hired that season.

“Pete hit us pretty hard with the suspension,” he said. “No more games for the rest of that season, including the playoffs. We were back the following season.”

Redlands: It’s where his officiating career began. Local games. There couldn’t have been many. High schools were scarce. San Bernardino and Riverside just had one campus, like Redlands. Colton. Chaffey, in Ontario. Fontana and Eisenhower, in Rialto, didn’t even have their own high schools.

CLOSE CALLS & CONFESSIONS

He’d written “Close Calls: Confessions of an NFL Referee” in the early 1980s. The guy was an author. An official of famous NFL games. Never read the book. Can only guess how it was presented.

He also wrote text books. After his on-field days concluded, he worked for the league writing referees’ exams and other data. He edited the league’s rules book.

His “Confessions” book: Stories, humorous anecdotes, nuggets about his professional career in education. After starting as a Redlands English teacher in 1941, Schachter eventually became a principal at Los Angeles High School, later surfacing as superintendent (1971-78) in the L.A. school system.

All the appropriate names were in “Confessions” – Lombardi, Starr, Butkus, Papa Bear, Shula, Madden, Paul Brown, Van Brocklin, you name it. Hired by Commissioner Bert Bell in the 1950s – $100 a game, 7-game minimum.

Pete_Rozelle_and_George_Halas
Pete Rozelle, left, who once served as a public relations specialist when the Rams trained in Redlands throughout the 1950s, shakes hands with George “Papa Bear” Halas, the longtime owner, coach and general manager of the Chicago Bears. Halas drafted Redlands’ Greg Horton in the 1974 NFL draft – third round out of Colorado. All part of a Redlands Connection. Photo by Jim Summaria

“No,” Schachter said, “none of those guys ever spent time buying me dinner and drinks.”

He retired following the 1976 Super Bowl, Pittsburgh’s 21-17 win over Dallas – Schachter’s third Super Bowl. He’d worked Green Bay’s 35-10 win over Kansas City, then Super Bowl V when Baltimore beat Dallas, 16-13, and the Steelers-Cowboys finale.

Twenty-two years in the striped shirt. Brooklyn-born, a U.S. Marine, married to Charlotte for 56 years, sired three sons, Bob, Tom and Jim. Norm Schachter studied for a doctorate at Alfred (N.Y.) University. For Schachter, the end came in San Pedro. Age 90. Died in an old folks home.

It was a long way from the famous Green Bay-Dallas “Ice Bowl” game where he was spotted wearing ear muffs in the freezing weather.

COMING – Super Bowl’s connection to Redlands.