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  • Writer's pictureShawn Papi

The Day the Eastern Shore Ruled the Super Bowl

Joe Namath hands off to UMES grad Emerson Boozer

Pretty much everybody loves a Super Bowl party. Even non-fans get to look forward to the commercials and the halftime show. But what if the game is a blowout? What if those ads are boring, or the music falls flat? Here at Secrets of the Eastern Shore, we are here to serve, so here is a bit of Eastern Shore football history sure to help you fill up those boring stretches with fascinating, homegrown small talk.

When the New York Jets and Baltimore Colts were getting ready to play Super Bowl III in January 1969, no one gave the Jets a chance. Everyone just laughed when the Jets’ braggart of a quarterback, “Broadway” Joe Namath, “guaranteed” a victory for his team. But Namath’s Jets lived up to that brash promise, delivering a 16-7 victory that still ranks among the greatest of Super Bowl upsets. In fact, it’s arguably the most famous football game ever played.

Now for the real news: There is an amazing Eastern Shore angle to that game.

• Five players on the two Super Bowl III teams came from the same school, and that school was Maryland State College, which we now know as the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Yup, the school in little Princess Anne.

• When I first researched this several years ago, it looked from everything I could find like that was still a record. No other school had ever had more than five players in the same Super Bowl. But that has changed in recent years. Several schools have matched that record of five, LSU, Penn State, and Florida among them. The record was definitely broken in 2021 when LSU landed six players in the big game.

But looking back, UMES came so very close to still placing in a tie for the all-time record, even today. Another UMES grad, offensive lineman Sherman Plunkett, played for the Jets in the season in the games leading up to that 1969 game. But wasn’t included on the team’s Super Bowl roster for some reason. (Trivia: Plunkett is the guy who gave Namath his famous nickname, “Broadway Joe.” Thanks to reader Lanny Butler Jr. for the tip on Plunkett …)

• The UMES alumni who were active participants in Super Bowl III were Colts defensive back Charlie Stukes; Colts kick returner and defensive back Jim Duncan; Jets running back Emerson Boozer; and Jets defensive backs Johnny Sample and Earl Christy.

That’s quite an amazing feat for such a small school, and one located about as far as you can get from any national spotlight. But UMES actually has quite a rich football history dating back to the 1920s. The golden age of the Hawks started in 1948 when the school hired a man named Vernon “Skip” McCain as coach.

A native of Oklahoma, McCain was quite an interesting guy. He didn’t set out to be a football coach. He actually wanted to be a math teacher, but the only jobs he could find at the start of his career were in high schools that needed PE teachers and coaches. He climbed that ladder and became the head basketball coach and an assistant football coach at Tennessee State University before landing the job in Princess Anne.

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