At 68, Roy Hilton still enjoys fooling people.
"They come up to me and think I'm an old basketball player. I like that," said Hilton, who, at 6-foot-6, was one of the tallest Baltimore Colts of his day.
He fooled people in other ways, back then. The Colts' 15th round draft pick in 1965, Hilton surprised everyone by making the team at defensive end and lasting 11 years in the NFL. And in Baltimore's 16-13 victory in Super Bowl V, he surprised Dallas by roaring past its All-Pro tackle, Ralph Neely, and sacking Cowboys' quarterback Craig Morton twice before halftime.
Then, in the fourth quarter, with the Colts trailing 13-6, Hilton charged the Dallas passer again. Tossing Neely aside with a head slap (it was legal then), Hilton rushed a hurried Morton and forced an interception that led to the Colts' tying touchdown.
"After the game, Mac (Colts coach Don McCafferty) came over to me, shook my hand and just said, 'Thanks,' " Hilton said. "That was the highlight of my entire career.
"See, I was fired up for the Super Bowl because, beforehand, Dallas had switched Neely from one side of its offensive line to the other. They wanted to get him away from (Colts' All-Pro defensive end) Bubba Smith. I guess they thought I was easy pickings for Neely, and it ticked me off."
Smith, who died in August, had been the first player selected overall in the 1967 draft, out of Michigan State. Hilton, who attended Jackson State, had been chosen No. 210. So it was no surprise which end got all of the ink.
"Bubba was something," Hilton said. "If he got mad and decided he was going to get the quarterback, they simply could not stop him. He was that good. He was bigger (6-foot-7) and stronger than me, though both of our legs looked like toothpicks. I had a phobia about that. During games, I wore socks all the way up to my knees, to make my legs look bigger. Even now, when I go down the street for a walk, I do the same thing."
Hilton, who lives in Randallstown, has paid for his rough play. The left knee has been replaced twice; the right one is next to go. He suffers from gout and arthritis and takes more than 10 medications a day. But you won't hear complaints from the man who played nine seasons in Baltimore during the Colts' golden era.
"I've been blessed," said Hilton, married 46 years to his high school sweetheart. "We've got six grandchildren, all of whom keep me going."
One, Brandon Copeland (Gilman), is a junior defensive end at Penn, where he has twice made the All-Ivy League first team. Another, Marquis Sullivan (Spalding), starred in basketball at Loyola.
Having raised three daughters, Hilton now has six grandsons and dotes on every one. He attends every Penn home game and tutors Copeland in the nuances of the sport. He also goes to all Ravens' home contests with his neighbor, Lenny Moore, the Colts' Hall of Famer.
Hilton retired in 2007 from his job as security officer at Johns Hopkins University, a post Hilton held for 20 years. He still exercises regularly "to keep the body parts functioning" and takes brisk walks daily.
"When I go out in the rain, my wife, Marie, tells me what a goof I am," he said. "I may drop dead, working out, but I feel like I've got to do it."
At 225 pounds, he's lighter than his playing weight (238). There's good reason for that, Hilton said:
"When I left football, I had to start paying for my own meals."