The Colts went
ahead again—they were really high for this game—and when we were behind 20-10 I
realized there wasn't much we could do but pass. Baltimore realized this, too,
and they just turned their linemen loose on every play. One time Bubba Smith
hit me from the blind side, picked me up, turned me over in mid-air, threw me
down on my head and fell on me. I thought my neck was broken. Since Kenny
Stabler was not on the active list at the time, it went through my mind that Al
Davis was going to have to suit up and play quarterback. I'm lying there on the
ground, scared to move my head for fear it'll fall off, and I see somebody
looking down at me. It's Billy Ray Smith again. He's laughing. "Hey, old
folks," he says.
I gave him a
dirty look and he said, "Come on now, oldtimer, you got to get up. You
ain't got nobody else to put in." He pleads with me, "Come on now,
George. Let me help you. We got to get this game over with."
" Billy Ray, let me alone. I'm gonna get up, you dumb fool. Just get back
over there where you belong." He went away laughing.
A few plays later
I threw the 99 pass to Warren Wells to cut the lead to 20-17, but Baltimore
came right back and scored again and it ended 27-17, with us still trying madly
to score. Somebody said in the locker room that we'd gone down with flying
colors, but that didn't comfort me a bit. I just sat in front of my locker and
cried. I didn't care who saw me. We'd had a chance to go to the Super Bowl
again and we'd blown it, and this was the third year in a row we'd lost the big
game at the end of the season. A writer came over and told me that I'd thrown
for a lot of yardage and completed a lot of passes I just said, "Don't talk
about it. The score's all I remember."
So the great
season was over, and the postseason activities began. I won so many awards I
didn't know what to do with them, and I was more than a little embarrassed. I
mean, I was getting awards that should have gone to our whole team, to the guys
who blocked for me, the guys who caught my passes, the guys who kept us in the
game so I could go in there and do my thing. But as one of our players told me,
"George, don't be embarrassed. Go out there and enjoy every second of it.
Remember all the years when you did the work and other people got the
And I did. I went
to Philadelphia to accept the Bert Bell Award from the Maxwell Football Club, I
went to Miami to accept the Touchdown Club's Player-of-the-Year Award and I
showed up at various other places to accept such things as the Associated Press
Male Athlete of the Year award, and
The Sporting News
Player of the Year award
and the Vincent T. Lombardi Award for "dedication to professional
football." In a way, that was the one I liked the best. Marie Lombardi,
Vince's widow, made the presentation, and I was really touched.
ceremonies were formal and stiff and kind of dull, but once in a while there
was a lively one. At Miami the toastmaster gave me an award and added:
"George's incredible list of accomplishments is too long to recite. George,
as you know, is 43, he would have been 45, but he was sick a couple years....
His lovely wife Betty says George's appearance has never changed over the
years. He's always looked old. Blanda has had so many invitations to these
dinners it's hard for him to remember the first one. I looked it up, George. It
was The Last Supper. His records go back a long way before this season. When he
was in the service he kicked a 64-yard field goal, an outstanding feat which
unfortunately never got into the record books. All the reporters were at
Appomattox that day covering the surrender." Ah, the price of fame.
calling up and wanting to be my agent, make me rich. The agents and would-be
agents kept the pressure on. I told them I was a football player, not an actor,
and I'd leave the commercials to others. I did one, for Kellogg's Product 19,
but only because I eat it all the time. I turned down another $50,000 for
various commercials. I would have felt like a phony advertising something I
didn't use or believe in.
I did cut a
record—a song written especially for me and called, "It's Never Too
Late"—and when I began to get a swelled head about my beautiful voice my
wife Betty calmed me right down. "Gee," I said one day, "I wonder
why they wanted me to do that record?"