He asked the Chargers' conditioning coach, Phil Tyne, to help him get back some strength. Tyne started him on weights—a dumbbell bar with nothing on it. Benirschke couldn't even lift that.
Still he made his way back. By 1980 he not only was a spokesman for sufferers of ulcerative colitis (von Schamann eventually became both a sufferer and a spokesman) and the 120,000 Americans who have ostomy surgery each year, but was also back playing football.
He showed his "bags" to his teammates one day in the shower. It was a little awkward, explaining it all, until special teams captain Hank Bauer finally said, "Hey, Rolf, do you have shoes to match?"
When the second half started, the Orange Bowl fans were still roaring, and Strock was still firing, throwing another touchdown to Rose on the Dolphins' first possession. The game was now tied at 24 and starting to look like the ultimate no-heart loss for a no-heart team. Except to Winslow. "No," he said to himself on the sideline. "No. We are not going to be the team that blew a 24-0 lead in the playoffs."
A whole bunch of Chargers must've felt the same way because this is when the game really got good. "Never in my life," says Eric Sievers, the second San Diego tight end, "have I been in a game like that, when nobody took a single play off."
Back came the Chargers. Winslow took a 25-yard touchdown pass from Fouts to give them the lead again, 31-24. Returning to the bench, Winslow started to cramp—first in his thighs, then in his calves. "And I ate my bananas," Winslow says.
Back came the Dolphins. Strock hit reserve tight end Bruce Hardy for a 50-yard touchdown. Now the noise in the Orange Bowl sounded like a DC-11. "It made my ears pop," recalls Ric McDonald, the Chargers' overworked trainer that day. "It would be at this incredibly loud level and then it would go up about 10 decibels. Guys were coming up to me and screaming, 'My ears are popping!' You could stand two feet from a guy and not hear him."
Maybe that's why a Fouts pass was picked off by Lyle Blackwood, who lateraled to Gerald Small, who ran it to the San Diego 15 to set up another easy touchdown run by Nathan and a 38-31 Miami lead less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
That score seemed to kill the Chargers. They tried to put together a drive on their next possession but had to punt after seven plays, and Strock, starting on his own 20-yard line, led a brutal, clock-munching drive that put the Dolphins on the San Diego 21 with five minutes to play. A three-pointer by von Schamann, the AFC leader in field goal percentage, would ice it. "We thought they were dead," Rose told NFL Films. "It was like, C'mon, throw in the towel! It's hot, we're tired. Let us win the game."
On first down, Nathan ran right for a short gain. On second down and seven, Andra Franklin took a safe handoff and plunged up the middle, where he got tortillaed by Gary (Big Hands) Johnson, and the ball was ripped out of his grip by San Diego's 280-pound lineman Louie Kelcher. Safety Pete Shaw fell on it. San Diego lived.