As he carried the Lombardi Trophy to midfield after the Super Bowl Sunday, past a double row of giddy and groping New York Giants, Raymond Berry felt their glee.
"They (players) were in another world," said Berry, 78. "As I watched them touch the trophy, and kiss it, the emotion of the experience was written all over those boys' faces. Winning the championship is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I could identify with them. I've been there."
Fifty-four years ago, Berry led the Baltimore Colts to their first NFL title, a 23-17 sudden-death victory over the Giants. Berry had a record 12 receptions in that contest, en route to a Hall of Fame career as a wide receiver.
The aftermath of Sunday's game, he said, "brought back memories of Dec. 28, 1958. Alan Ameche scored (the winning touchdown) in Yankee Stadium, and we just weren't in our right minds after that. When you're 24, and you just won a world championship, you're floating, your feet don't touch the ground.
"Back then, if they had had the Lombardi Trophy, I'm sure I'd have reached out and kissed it myself."
The NFL chose Berry to carry the award to the stage following the Giants' 21-17 victory over New England at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, now the home of the Colts. He was given explicit instructions beforehand.
"They (league officials) told me to walk slow, because all of the Giants would want to touch the trophy. We even practiced the walk, on Saturday."
Sure enough, many of the Giants caressed the sterling silver trophy. Some gave it a smooch, or took its picture. Others patted Berry on the back, or playfully messed with his hair.
Berry nestled the trophy firmly in his arms, as if touchdown-bound. In his 13-year career, he caught 631 passes, fumbling once.
"That might be one reason why the NFL selected me to carry it. I had good hands, as a player," he said. "And I had a good grip on that thing on Sunday, too."
His one regret: that the Patriots, a team he once coached, lost the game.
"I was really rooting for New England, but the Giants beat 'em, fair and square," said Berry, who coached the Patriots for six years and took them to the Super Bowl following the 1985 season.
"But I did get to see Mr. (Robert) Kraft, their owner, and told him that he's done a helluva job up there. A championship experience starts at the top. It was that way in Baltimore, when Carroll Rosenbloom owned the Colts."