The New York Jets’ upset win against the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in 1968’s Super Bowl III has long been considered a miracle.
Now the Jets’ center, John Schmitt, has experienced another, as this video testifies.
The championship ring he lost three years later while vacationing at Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach has appeared — although he’d given it up for lost almost a half-century ago.
“Schmitt lost the ring during his first surfing lesson in February 1971 a quarter-mile off the beach behind the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki,” reports Alex Sundby for CBS News. “He didn’t realize the ring slipped off his finger until he returned to the shore.”
“I got a snorkel and some flippers and I went out and I dove until I was blue,” Schmitt told CBS News affiliate KGMB-TV in Honolulu. “I’m not kidding you. It must have been three hours I was out there looking. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was just exhausted. I virtually could not swim or flip my legs anymore and I just went in broken-hearted.”
Some time later, Waikiki lifeguard John Ernstberg found the ring washed up onto the beach. His great-niece Cindy Saffery told TV station that Ernstberg came home one day, gave the ring to his wife, Mary, and they put it in a box.
John Ernstberg died in 1991, his wife four years later. Saffery inherited their estate, including the ring. Recently she took it to an expert, who helped Saffery and her husband, Sam track down the 1968 Jets number 52 — the Super Bowl’s winning center.
“It’s a legacy,” Sam told KGMB-TV. “He put a lot of hard work into this to earn this. This is not something that you just can buy off the street. This is something that you earn. So for Mr. Schmitt, he earned this ring, so by right it’ll make me feel good to put it personally back into his hand.”
Schmitt, who lives in Long Island, N.Y., wants to fly the Safferys to New York to thank them for returning the ring
“I couldn’t believe it,” he told the TV station. “I mean, I honestly couldn’t believe it. I mean 40 years. That that ring was found is a bloody miracle.
“It really is a miracle.”