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Catching Up With . . . Former Colt Roy Jefferson

One year, that's all he spent in Baltimore. But looking back, Roy Jefferson wouldn't trade that time with the Colts for anything in his football career.

A first-team All-Pro wide receiver in Pittsburgh, Jefferson went from the Steelers, who'd won one game in 1969, to the Colts, whom he helped win Super Bowl V.

"In 12 years in the NFL, that season was my favorite," he said. "Going from last place to being world champs? My God, there's no comparison."

Jefferson earned that Super Bowl ring. He caught 44 passes for 749 yards and seven touchdowns for the Colts, including a 45-yarder in a 17-0 victory over Cincinnati in the playoffs. On that play — the first points ever scored by a Baltimore team against the Bengals — Jefferson took a John Unitas pass at the 9-yard line and dragged a defender into the end zone.

"Forgive me, I don't remember that one," said Jefferson, who turns 70 on Saturday. "I'm part of the NFL concussion lawsuit."

Retired, he lives in Annandale, Va., with Candie, his wife of 50 years, and the golf clubs he exercises daily.Two wrist surgeries have undermined his game.

"I have to take a Vicodin just to close my left hand," he said.

Once, Jefferson was among the game's premier, if more headstrong, receivers. Dubbed a malcontent in Pittsburgh, where he'd starred for five years, he was dealt to the Colts with a grudge to prove the Steelers wrong.

"I was [in Baltimore] to make a statement," he said. "I wanted to show Pittsburgh they'd made a mistake in getting rid of me. I mean, I wasn't a 'yes' man for coach Chuck Noll. If you cursed me, I cursed you back. I messed over the curfew rules a lot and, in training camp, I'd park my car in the coaches' spaces.

"When I came to Baltimore, I had to make sure the Steelers' fans knew that my leaving had nothing to do with me losing my ability as a top-flight receiver."

In training camp, the Colts considered Jefferson's mindset, flashy clothes and nickname (Sweet Pea) and paired him with John Mackey, their no-nonsense, Hall of Fame-bound tight end.

"My hero," Jefferson said of his roommate. "We stayed in all night talking about football, the Players' Union, our own kids and mundane stuff."

Jefferson had five receptions in the Colts' opener, a 16-14 win in San Diego, and a TD catch in their second victory. A week later, in a 24-20 comeback at Houston, he scored twice, including the game-winner on a 31-yard pass from Unitas with 46 seconds left. The ball fell into Jefferson's arms as he crossed the goal line. Unitas, it is said, walked off the field after releasing the pass, confident of the outcome of the play.

"Biggest catch I've made in my life," Jefferson said after the game.

His three catches in the Super Bowl, a 16-13 win over Dallas, led all Colts' receivers. But it's the celebration afterward with Colts' linebacker Ray May, another ex-Steeler, that still lights him up.

"Ray and I hugged each other and rolled around on the locker room floor, we were so happy to be there," he said. "Then, when we went to dinner in Miami, who was standing at the door to shake our hands but Muhammad Ali. When he saw my wife, Ali gave her a hug and then stared at me and said, 'You want to do something about this?' "

Sweet Pea demurred.

Despite impressive numbers, the Colts dealt Jefferson away 1971. At his bidding.

"I'd come to Baltimore with a three-year contract and asked (Colts owner) Carroll Rosenbloom, 'If I have a good year, can we renegotiate?' He agreed. But after the Super Bowl, he changed his mind," he said. "I'm not proud of it, but I called Rosenbloom a bald-faced liar and demanded to be traded."

Jefferson landed in Washington where he made the Pro Bowl and helped the Redskins reach the Super Bowl in 1972. Four years later, he retired with 451 career receptions for 7539 yards and 52 touchdowns.

Baltimore might have been a whistle stop in his career, but it remains his best memory.

"That's still number one," he said.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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