DESPITE THE attention heaped on Joe Namath for his guarantee of an upset of the Colts in Super Bowl III after the 1968 football season, many of the Jets looked at that game mostly as a chance for an income boost. "The Super Bowl was, to me, just another game," recalls wide receiver Don Maynard, a 1987 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "If we showed up we were going to get the loser's share [$7,500]. If we played a little harder we could possibly get the winner's share [$15,000]."
This is an article from the July 14, 2008 issue
But that game did lead Maynard to his next profession. A friend in the financial industry suggested he invest his winner's share, and Maynard took notes. "I'd been saving two dollars a week since I was 15 years old," says Maynard, 73, a Crosbyton, Texas, native who starred at Texas Western (now UTEP) and lives in El Paso. "My mother always told us to save a little bit, so it all carried over." Upon retiring in 1973, Maynard worked as a financial planner and now runs his own consulting firm. Famously frugal, he once converted an old '55 Ford coupe to run on cheaper butane instead of gasoline.
Maynard had a Forrest Gump--like ability to turn up in some of football's most memorable games. "I was the first man ever to touch the ball in an overtime game," he says of his 18-yard kickoff return for the Giants in the legendary 1958 championship against the Colts, the NFL's first-ever sudden-death game. A decade later he played in two classics from the '68 season: the Jets' loss to the Raiders in the infamous Heidi Game on Nov. 17 and their Super Bowl III win (played in January '69).
But it was the 1968 AFL championship, a rematch against the Raiders on Dec. 29, that Maynard considers his greatest performance. His six catches for 118 yards and two TDs included a 52-yard fourth-quarter grab in which he spun around to snare the ball out of the wind and set up the winning score. "That pass might have been worth over a million dollars," he says, figuring the earnings of all his teammates. A galloping speedster known for running improvised routes, he caught 633 passes for 11,834 yards and 88 touchdowns in his 15-year career. When he retired he was the NFL's alltime leader in receptions and receiving yards.
Maynard, who has two children with his wife, Marilyn, from whom he's separated, held a variety of jobs during his playing days, including high school industrial arts teacher and licensed plumber. He's still handy—he likes to work the chain saw at his summer home in Ruidoso, N.Mex.—and remains a true Texan. For one, Maynard is never without his cowboy boots, from his first day as a rookie at training camp to his rounds on the golf course today. Yes, his boots are fitted with soft spikes.