Super Bowl hero and one of my favorite players passed away today. He was an awesome receiver who was an essential component of our Super Bowl Team. He was also a very independent and intelligent man who walked away from the game at his prime when he was only 27. I remember hanging out watching the Jets practice at Flushing Meadow Park during the 1968 NYC teacher's strike. My friends and I were able to hang out on the sidelines with the players during practices. Sauer was a tremendous kibbitzer who really got on the other players but always in good fun. He seemed to really enjoy the game. Unreal how he grew to hate it and walked away from it. Here is the Times obit.
George Sauer, Jets Receiver and Rebel, Is Dead at 69
By FRANK LITSKY
George Sauer, who as a wide receiver for the Jets played a pivotal role in the team’s stunning victory in Super Bowl III, and who later quit professional football because he considered it dehumanizing, died on Tuesday in Westerville, Ohio. He was 69.
His sister, Dana Keifer, confirmed the death, saying the cause was Alzheimer’s disease.
The Baltimore Colts were three-touchdown favorites when they faced the Jets in the 1969 Super Bowl, in Miami, but they lost, 16-7, in one of the great upsets in pro football history.
A big factor was the stellar play of Jets quarterback Joe Namath, who had brashly guaranteed a victory. Sauer was another.
The Jets were not only underdogs to a powerful Baltimore team, but they were also hobbled when Don Maynard, their speedy flanker and favorite Namath target, pulled a hamstring muscle. Maynard caught no passes that day. But Sauer, a split end who lacked great speed but ran textbook pass patterns, caught eight.
Sauer was a four-time All-Star in the American Football League. He played for the Jets in the A.F.L. and then the National Football League from 1965 through 1970, appearing in 84 games and catching 309 passes for 4,965 yards and 28 touchdowns.
He retired from the N.F.L. at the end of the 1970 season at 27, at the peak of his career (though he would return briefly to the game with short-lived rival leagues).
He had grown to hate the life of a pro football player, he said.
“When you get to the college and professional levels, the coaches still treat you as an adolescent,” he said in an interview in 1971 with the Institute for the Study of Sport and Society. “They know damn well that you were never given a chance to become responsible or self-disciplined. Even in the pros, you were told when to go to bed, when to turn your lights off, when to wake up, when to eat and what to eat. You even have to live and eat together like you were in a boys’ camp.”
Ten years later, he remained just as disillusioned. In an interview with The New York Times, he called professional football “a grotesque business” designed to “mold you into someone easy to manipulate.”
His attitude did not surprise his father, George H. Sauer Sr., a former college coach and later a pro football executive. “He definitely does not like to be regimented,” he said of his son.
George Henry Sauer Jr. was born to George and Lillian Sauer on Nov. 10, 1943, in Sheboygan, Wis., and raised in Waco, Tex. At 6 feet 2 inches and 195 pounds, he was an outstanding receiver at the University of Texas, where he gave up premedical studies because he did not have time for both that and football. He was a member of Texas teams that went undefeated in 1963-64, winning the Cotton Bowl, and that defeated Alabama in the 1965 Orange Bowl.
He skipped his last year of college eligibility and signed with the Jets, where his father was the player personnel director.
Sauer was married and divorced several times. His sister, Ms. Keifer, is his only immediate survivor.
After leaving the Jets, Sauer played for the New York Stars and the Charlotte Hornets of the short-lived World Football League in 1974. In 1979, he was an assistant coach with the Carolina Chargers of the American Football Association.
He also furthered an interest in writing, turning out novels, poetry and book reviews.
“He didn’t want to be anything but a poet and a writer,” John Dockery, a former Jets teammate and roommate during road games, recalled in a 2008 interview, “but he was given skills he didn’t want. He wanted something else. He walked away from the money, from everything, because it was too painful for him.”
Sauer expressed his misgivings about the football life in an article in The Times in 1983.
“My passion for the game was not sufficient,” he wrote. “Football is an ambiguous sport, depending both on grace and violence. It both glorifies and destroys bodies. At the time, I could not reconcile the apparent inconsistency. I care even less about being a public person. You stick out too much, the world enlarges around you to dangerous proportions, and you are too evident to too many others. There is a vulnerability in this and, oddly enough, some guilt involved in standing out.”
Yep. I think that Winston Hill, and Sauer were the Offensive MVP's of the game. Hard to leave out Snell, but so many of Snell's yards were sweeps to his left as Hill was just destroying the Colts DE on every play. Namath just kept on calling that sweep over and over again and the Colts couldn't stop it and we had a nice lead. Namath did not end up throwing a single pass in the 4th quarter.
Namath got all the glory but Sauer constantly got open and our OLine just blew the Colts off the ball. Of course our defense basically pitched a shutout also.
Just heard about Sauer passing away about five minutes ago. Very sad night for all Jet fans. Didn't realize he left the game that early, and was so bitter about it. Without question the 3rd best receiver we ever had, and was so clutch in SB 3 with those big receptions seen on every highlight film of the game.
Didn't become a fan until 1973, but I think that even though wide receiver has actually been one of our best positions over the years, a strong case could be made that Sauer was the second best receiver our organization has ever had. Had he had a full career, it's even possible he would have surpassed Maynard.
Even though I wasn't a fan yet (because I was 5) when he had his huge game in the Super Bowl, I have the game on tape and I view him as perhaps the most valuable player in that game (because he stepped up, which was significant, as Maynard was injured and shut out on the stat sheet).
I wish he would have enjoyed playing the game more than he did, but I respect his decision to step away when he wasn't into it anymore.
That's something to keep in mind for those who want Charles Woodson to be signed as a Jets free-agent safety. Woodson for a couple of months only wanted to go to a Super Bowl contender. When none were interested, he said the other day that, well, OK, he would be willing to play for a rebuilding team. It sounds like a money grab to me, and I'd stay away. To George Sauer Jr.'s credit, he wasn't into playing the sport anymore, so he didn't steal any team's money while going through the motions.