More than a thousand young men — roughly — have played football at Texas Tech since the Super Bowl began in the 1960s.
Only 13 have Super Bowl rings.
Michael Crabtree and Darcel McBath hope to join that list today when their San Francisco 49ers face the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. So does Ravens linebacker Adrian Hamilton, a former Texas Tech walk-on who played in six games for the Red Raiders in 2007, then was kicked off the team by Mike Leach before blossoming at Prairie View A&M.
The list currently reads almost as a who’s who, from Tech legends Donny Anderson and E.J. Holub to more recent stars like Graham Harrell and new Red Raider head football coach Kliff Kingsbury.
The memories remain fresh for those who wear a Super Bowl ring.
“It’s definitely the pinnacle,” said kicker Lin Elliott, who was part of the Dallas Cowboys team that won Super Bowl XXVII against the Buffalo Bills. “Whatever it is you do, you have a pinnacle you’re trying to get to, and for professional football that was our pinnacle. Before training camp even starts, that’s the point we were working toward.”
Former Red Raider running back Anderson and linebacker Holub went head to head in the Green Bay Packers’ 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl. Anderson became the first former Red Raider to win a Super Bowl and he and the Packers would go on to repeat in Super Bowl II.
“Playing against an NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, who won the championship a number of times, and us being young men and starting out in pro football playing such a great team as Green Bay ... we were really so excited about doing it,” said Holub. “We had so many butterflies in us. We made some mental mistakes, then settled down and played pretty good. The fourth one, of course, we did real good.”
Although Holub and the Chiefs were on the losing end of Super Bowl I, they would redeem themselves three years later in a 23-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
“I still think about it and keep trying to relive different plays, things I didn’t do and should have done,” Holub said. “I have memories of great guys I played with and played against ... one in particular was Donny Anderson. I played against him in the first one — he was a rookie at that time. I got to tackle him and I pinched him on the leg and pulled a hair and he kicked me and got a penalty from it. They didn’t see the pinch but they saw he kicked me so he got the penalty.”
In between Holub’s Super Bowl appearances, former Red Raider wide receiver Bake Turner was part of New York Jets 16-7 upset win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla. The Jets’ win is regarded by many as one of the biggest upsets in American sports history and helped led to the merger of the NFL and old AFL leagues.
“I don’t think the Colts realized how hard-nosed we were at the time,” Turner said. “We had a lot of hard-hitting people on that team, a lot of Texans on that team, most people don’t realize that.”
The Jets, representing the AFL, came off an 11-3 regular season and a narrow 27-23 win over the Oakland Raiders in the 1968 AFL title game. The Colts had just shut out the Cleveland Browns 34-0 for the NFL title after finishing the regular season 13-1.
It’s been 44 years since the Jets shocked the football world on January 12, 1969, but the memory for Turner and many others lives on.
“It’s been so long since Super Bowl III in Miami,” Turner said. “It was a fabulous time, the excitement of being there with Joe Namath and all the Texas players.”
Four Red Raiders won rings between Holub’s Super Bowl IV win and kicker Lin Elliott’s record-setting performance with the Cowboys, where he hit 7 of 7 extra points in the Cowboys’ 52-17 rout of the Buffalo Bills.
“After we won the Super Bowl, you could walk into any restaurant in Dallas and the ring would speak for itself,” Elliott said. “You could walk to the front of the line real quick. It changes the way people look at you and changes your status. After you win the Super Bowl and have a ring on your hand, they would sit you in the best section of the restaurant with their best people and you didn’t have to pay for any meals.”
Maury Buford punted for the Red Raiders in the early 1980s and went on to win a ring with the 1985 Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX.
“Everybody plays for the ring,” Buford said. “It’s all about the ring. I have it with me every day. I don’t wear it all the time. I keep it at the house, a lot of times I travel with it. That way if the situation ever arises, people know I played and won a Super Bowl ring. I share it with people, that’s what it’s all about. If it wasn’t for the fans and the people that paid for the tickets and all of that, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to play professional sports.”
The 1985 Bears, who are still regarded by many as one of the best NFL teams ever, led the Patriots 23-3 at the half and went on to win 46-10.
“We had a very dominant team,” Buford said. “I just remember the atmosphere in the locker room. I don’t think it was cockiness, it was just a confidence we had. Every one of us knew we were going to win the ball game, it was just how much were we going to win it by. The defense we had was dominant, the two teams we played on the way to the Super Bowl we shut them both out, that had never been done … It wasn’t a really close ball game, we had a lot of time to look around and enjoy it and relish what was going on.”
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