ELBA — Former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath famously guaranteed a win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, a guarantee that came to pass with the Jets’ 16-7 win on Jan. 12, 1969.
Elba native Randy Rasmussen played on the offensive line for that championship Jets team and was also confident, even if he wasn’t as boisterous as Broadway Joe.
The Jets were coming off a win over the Oakland Raiders in the AFL championship game and were poised to be the first AFL team to win the Super Bowl, even if they were heavy underdogs.
“We had a tougher time beating the Raiders than we did beating the Colts. (The Colts) weren’t going to win. Who’s going to argue with me? I have the ring,” Rasmussen said holding up his righ ring finger.
Rasmussen’s effort in Super Bowl III was honored Friday in the Elba high school gym as he presented a golden football to Elba high school.
To celebrate Super Bowl 50 scheduled for Feb. 7, the NFL started the Super Bowl High School Honor Roll program to acknowledge schools and communities for their part in Super Bowl history.
Around 2,000 high schools and 3,000 players and coaches will be honored with golden footballs that feature the player or coaches name, high school and super bowl played. Those honored are individuals that were a part of an active super bowl roster.
“This is a day that will be remembered as a prestigious event that will always be a part of the Elba community and the Elba Public Schools,” Elba principal Erin Ackerson said.
Rasmussen spoke to the crowd that filled the gym seating, speaking on his time as a student at Elba to his college career at then Kearney State to his 15-year career with the Jets.
“You know what? it went by like that,” Rasmussen told the students in attendance. “You enjoy every minute of it. Enjoy every moment.”
Rasmussen got his start in the sport playing with his brothers in the yard before playing eight-man football at Elba. There wasn’t a state playoff at the time but he was about as confident in his high school team as he was in the 1968 Jets.
“I’m telling you anybody in front of us, we could of beat them,” he said.
Rasmussen explained he was fortunate to have good teachers and coaches all the way through his student and playing life. He developed an interest in math, and if his professional football career hadn’t panned out, he would have become a teacher.
After only losing five games during his time at Kearney State, Rasmussen was drafted in the 12th round, 302nd overall by the Jets.
In one of the several examples Rasmussen shared of people going the extra mile in his life, he told of a time in one of his first rookie practices.
Struggling to block with the other rookies on the offensive line, four-time all-pro lineman Winston Hill pulled him aside after practice and demonstrated how to grab the opposing lineman’s shoulder pads just right to help slow them down.
“I said ‘Winston, that’s holding.’ He smacked me so hard and said ‘Son, you’re not listening to me. Now you’re pass blocking in the American Football League,’” Rassmussen explained.
On top of his super bowl ring, Rasmussen played in a team-record 207 games, starting in 205, including 144 starts in a row, another team record. He played left guard in all but two games of his pro career. One of those games was Super Bowl III when he switched to right guard to help compensate for injuries on the line.
“I am proud of that,” Rasmussen said of his records. “There are three rules of playing football. The No. 1 rule is you have to show up on Sunday. The second is you’ve got to give it everything you’ve got on every play. The third thing is, when you walk off that field, there better be no gas left in the tank. You better be bone dry because you owe it to the players, owners and fans.”
Rasmussen now lives in North Carolina after retiring from the insurance business. He doesn’t attend games because of the crowds, but says the game hasn’t changed, the athletes have.
“They’re bigger, faster and stronger,” He said. “The hits are more dynamic now because everybody is moving fast, but the game is the same.”
As his career suggests, Rasmussen said he concentrated on hard work week in and week out, but didn’t forget where he came from.
“I was proud to be from a small school,” he said.