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GARO YEPREMIAN

SUPER BOWL VII

Kicker, Dolphins

It was Garo Yepremian's only NFL pass. So automatically it was his worst. It certainly was one of the Super Bowl's worst _ and best-remembered _ failed field goal attempts. It was neither wide right nor wide left. It went straight up, not a work of art.

Yepremian was the Miami Dolphins place-kicker from 1970 to 1978, which included their 17-0 season in 1972 and 14-7 Super Bowl VII victory over Washington. He also was voted the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Kicker of the Decade _ although he hasn't been voted into the shrine, something about which he is ready to complain at the drop of a ball.

He was known then, too, as the "little Cypriot tie maker." Yes, he was born in Larnaca, Cyprus, and had a sideline hand-painting men's neckwear in striking colors during his playing days.

He's still painting. Now it's landscapes, seascapes and the like, also in bold colors. Yepremian auctions off his works of art to raise money for the Garo Yepremian Foundation for Brain Tumor Research. "My daughter-in-law was 25 when they discovered an inoperable brain tumor," he said. "My son knew it when he married her. They gave her a year to live. She's been fighting for the last four years."

For the past 15 years he's been a motivational speaker. One of the three books he co-authored: The Win-Win Book: Winning in Your Sport and Winning the Game of Life.

The Dolphins' 17-0 season could have ended with a 17-0 victory over the Redskins on Jan. 14, 1973, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. They led 14-0 with just over two minutes to play when Yepremian tried a 42-yard field goal.

The kick was blocked by Bill Brundige, and the ball bounced back toward Yepremian. Quarterback Earl Morrall, the holder for the kick, remembers trying to get to the ball before Yepremian. "I felt I was a little more experienced in such situations. The smart thing to do, of course, was to fall on the ball."

Rather than fall on it, Yepremian picked it up, scrambled and tried to throw a pass. It squirted out of his hand and came down in the arms of Washington's Mike Bass, who ran it 49 yards for a touchdown with 2:07 to play.

"The best memory of that game is, "Thank God we won,' " Yepremian said from his suburban Philadelphia home. "I wasn't looking forward to walking back from California to Miami. That's what I would have done to me if I was the coach. It's been haunting me for 30 years, but lately it has become a fun part of my life.

"Since we won the game I couldn't really sit down and cry for the rest of my life. You get one opportunity in life to get into a situation where the ball is in your hands and you try and throw it, and of course if you don't throw it well people think you can never throw a football. As a matter of fact, I can throw the ball pretty well. It was just in that one situation the ball slipped out of my hand. People only remember the pass; they don't remember the 1,070 points I scored."

ICKEY WOODS

SUPER BOWL XXIII

Running back, Bengals

As a rookie in 1988, Ickey Woods led Cincinnati with 1,066 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns en route to the Bengals' 12-4 record. Then his 126 yards and one touchdown against Seattle and 102 and two against Buffalo propelled the Bengals into Super Bowl XXIII.

And along the way Woods became a supernova, a star exploding into extremely bright but short-lived light. He created the Ickey Shuffle, an end-zone dance (later moved to the sideline to avoid the wrath of the NFL).

He was held to 79 yards and no TDs in the Bengals' 20-16 Super Bowl loss to the 49ers. Knee injuries limited Woods to a cumulative 459 yards and 12 touchdowns during the 1989-91 seasons. And then, at 26, he was gone from football for good.

Well, not completely gone. He will coach the Cincinnati Sizzle of the National Women's Football Association when the team debuts in 2005.

"I kind of got snookered into that," Woods said, chuckling. "My wife told me she was going to try out for the team and figured I'd do her a favor. I said, "Yeah, okay, you go try out and if the team needs some coaching, let me know. I'll help coach.'

"Chandra came back that night and said, "We need a coach,' and I went like, "Oh, man, I knew I shouldn't have opened my mouth.'

"

Opening his mouth, he said, is what he does best. Woods said he never considered trying to stay in the NFL in the front office or as a coach. "I could do sales. I've got the gift of gab. I could sell whatever you put in front of me. That's been my forte."

He began by selling wholesale meat in 1992. After a few years he switched to cars, to home security systems, to "whatever needed selling," Woods said. Then he opened his own company in suburban Cincinnati, Quality Floors by Ickey Woods, but he and his partner had a falling out. Now he's in sales at Brooks Flooring in Fort Wright, Ky., another Cincinnati suburb.

He also does a lot of appearances for charity, "mostly talking to inner-city kids," he said. "Every time I do something, somebody wants to see the dance. It comes up real often."

When he scored a touchdown, Woods would extend his arms, face the stands, hop twice to the left and twice to the right, spike the football, then shout, Whoo, whoo, whoo! as he swiveled his hips. He was a phenomenon, on TV talk shows, magazine covers, T-shirts ...

It guaranteed him a place in the pantheon of end-zone performers, alongside Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, Washington's Fun Bunch, various Dirty Birds in Atlanta and so on.

"It's not one of the best things I ever did," Woods said. "I didn't think that's what I'd be remembered for, but it's not bad."

WILLIAM "REFRIGERATOR" PERRY

SUPER BOWL XX

Defensive tackle, Bears

It's hard to believe William Perry ever played at 200 pounds.

Well, okay, he was 11 then. Now, at 41 and about double that weight, the Refrigerator lives a generally quiet life with occasional sojourns into the spotlight, more a curiosity than phenomenon.

In 1985 Perry was a Chicago Bears 318-pound rookie defensive tackle. Midway in the season he caught the nation's fancy when coach Mike Ditka put him on offense to block for the late Walter Payton's touchdown runs and score his own as well, one in Super Bowl XX.

He appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, on magazine covers and was featured in the Bears' Super Bowl Shuffle video made before they crushed the Patriots 46-10 in the championship game. He never had another season like it, not even close, and retired in 1994.

Perry became a mason, laying brick and cinder block and rigging scaffolding as co-owner with his father-in-law of a subcontracting company in Aiken, S.C. He goes bass fishing whenever he has the chance. He says he doesn't miss the stardom and all that went with it.

"This is me now; those things you're talking about, that's just stuff in the breeze," he told Sports Illustrated. But he's not exactly in hiding.

There are the commercials, autograph sessions, speaking engagements and celebrity and Toughman boxing matches. He once refereed an oil-wrestling match in a sports bar. On July 4 at Coney Island, Perry took part in a hot dog-eating contest. He quit after finishing four in five minutes; the winner ate 44{ franks in 12.

And capitalizing on his most obvious attribute, he is a national spokesman for Big Ass Fans, a company providing fans for industrial and commercial buildings, and part-owner of William "The Refrigerator" Perry's Oversize Outfitters, hunting and fishing gear.

In San Francisco's 1984 NFC championship win over Chicago, the 49ers used 264-pound guard Guy McIntyre as a goal-line blocking back. Ditka was not amused. During the 1985 season he put Perry at fullback and had him run the ball twice (2 yards apiece). In the next game, against Green Bay on Monday night, Perry opened the way for Payton's two touchdowns and scored one of his own on a 1-yard plunge.

Two weeks later at Green Bay, fans sledgehammered refrigerators in the Lambeau Field parking lot before the game. In response, Ditka had Jim McMahon throw a 4-yard touchdown pass to the Fridge. And in the Super Bowl, Perry pounded in from the 1 for Chicago's final touchdown. That Payton didn't get a chance to score in the game left a bitter taste in the mouths of Sweetness and Bears fans.

As his fame grew, so did his frame, and his effectiveness declined. In 1991 he weighed 370 pounds in training camp _ and split his pants the first time he bent over. He was ridiculed by fans and media. The Bears waived the Fridge in 1993, the Eagles picked him up for 1{ seasons, he played in 1996 for the WLAF (now NFL Europe) London Monarchs and was gone.

JIM O'BRIEN

SUPER BOWL V

Kicker, Colts

Until Adam Vinatieri's last-second kick for the Patriots beat the Rams two years ago, Jim O'Brien was the only kicker to win a Super Bowl with a last-minute field goal.

As a rookie, his 32-yarder for the Baltimore Colts with five seconds remaining in Super Bowl V beat the Cowboys 16-13. The game was filled with so many turnovers that it became known as the Blooper Bowl.

O'Brien played with the Colts from 1970 to 1972 and the Lions in 1973. How much did that kick define his four-year career?

"Let's put it this way; nobody remembers I played wide receiver at all," he said. "Not that I did all that much. I was definitely down on the depth chart."

O'Brien said he never really rode his name to extended fame, partly because it was built around that one kick. "I wasn't a household name," he said.

Playing pro football then, he said, "wasn't that great a job. You got paid okay and got a little fame, but I knew I was going to have to use my brains and education to do something else."

He tried sales for a few years and didn't care for it. However, he met his future wife in 1971, not long after the Super Bowl. They married five years later. Her father was a builder in Minneapolis. "So we went up there and I kind of learned the trade from the ground up," O'Brien said.

"I learned how to operate a big Cat (Caterpillar construction equipment) and how to build framing and flooring and electrical and plumbing. Luckily my father was an industrial arts teacher, so I knew how to use every tool there was."

He worked the equipment for about four years before moving to California and behind a desk. He's a project manager, traveling the country coordinating architects, engineers, builders and contractors.

When Mike Curtis' interception in Super Bowl V gave the Colts possession at the Dallas 28 with 59 seconds to play, Baltimore ran Norm Bulaich twice for 3 yards. Obviously, O'Brien would be called upon to win the game.

"I was probably too young and dumb to make it any more than it was, which was kind of a blessing," he said of the kick that gave the Colts their only Super Bowl title. "I remember it was a pretty good celebration on the field afterwards," he said.

O'Brien said it took 15 years or so to get football completely out of his system. "I actually had a tryout with Oakland about 10 years after my last year," he said. "Now when people ask me who I'm rooting for I tell them I really don't care. I'd like to have seen the Colts win the Super Bowl, but now it really doesn't matter to me."

JACK SQUIREK

SUPER BOWL XVIII

Linebacker, Raiders

Jack Squirek went from Raiders reserve linebacker to Redskins principal backbreaker in about as long as it took you to read this sentence.

The Redskins were trailing by 11 points and on their 12-yard line with 12 seconds remaining in the second quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. Squirek, Matt Millen's backup most of the 1983 season, replaced him for that play.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Squirek intercepted a Joe Thesimann pass and returned it for a touchdown. The 'Skins suddenly found themselves down 21-3 at the half and never recovered, losing 38-9.

The interception would be the only memorable play in Squirek's five-year career and landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Theismann, an ESPN broadcaster, remembers the screen pass all too well. "I didn't want to run it," he said. "Joe (Gibbs) explained that we'd played the Raiders earlier that year and that it worked against them then, and I said, "Don't you think they know that?' And he pointed at me and said, "Run it.'

"

At the Raiders bench, defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner remembered how the play had burned them for 67 yards 15 weeks earlier at RFK Stadium. He called for a zone defense, inserted Squirek and told him to cover receiver Joe Washington man-to-man. "I was trying to get in the game and Charlie kept grabbing me and saying, "Make sure you don't let him get by you.'

"

The ball was snapped, Theismann floated it toward Washington, Squirek grabbed it and "the first thing I really remember is being in the end zone. When something happens that quick, for a split second you don't realize what happened."

The ball is in the Squireks' living room; the family watches a tape of the game perhaps once a year.

While a player, he started a business in suburban Cleveland, cleaning carpets in office buildings. When his partner left, Pro Team Carpet Cleaning eventually became the more diversified Squirek Services. Two vehicles, five employees. A small business "but I make a good amount of money," he said. "Sometimes when you get bigger you get bigger headaches. Staying this way was a good tradeoff."

He's not that recognizable 20 years removed from his flash of fame. "Sometimes someone might say, "Hey, there was a guy named Squirek in a Super Bowl. Was that you?' ... It's nice to be remembered."

PETE BANASZAK

SUPER BOWL XI

Running back, Raiders

Two of the most memorable plays in Pete Banaszak's career covered 3 yards in Super Bowl XI, one in each half, each for a touchdown in the Raiders' 32-14 beating of Minnesota.

Fred Biletnikoff, whose 17- and 48-yard receptions set up the scores, was the game's Most Valuable Player. Banaszak knew his role.

"Not very glamorous," he said from Jacksonville, where he broadcasts Jaguars post-game shows. "I was a short-yardage runner. If we were on their goal line, or our own 5, I was going to be in there."

George Blanda, whose 340-game career as a quarterback and kicker with the Bears, Oilers and Raiders is a pro football record, pulled Banaszak aside during the 1966 season, Banaszak's first. "He told me, "You can't play football forever. You should probably find something to do in the offseason.'

"It hadn't occurred to me until then. I came out of Miami in 1966, signed a contract with (Raiders owner) Al Davis. I thought I had the world by the a_."

A lot of pro football players had offseason jobs, Blanda among them. They weren't making millions; the average annual salary in 1966 was less than $25,000. Banaszak's first contract was worth $15,000, his second $17,500, he said. His top salary: $156,000.

"George was with Ryder Truck Rental, had been for 20 years, when he got me into the business. I was a salesman knocking on doors. No special privileges."

When Blanda moved to the Railway Express Agency, so did Banaszak. Four years later he moved to Crowley Maritime Corp., an ocean transportation company. He's been there for 27 years as a salesman, district sales manager, regional manager, area manager and, since 1982, vice president of sales for national accounts. He said he's making a lot more than the $156,000 he made in his best year with the Raiders.

"George _ he's godfather to one of my children _ he steered me in the right direction. I found out there are things in life other than football and things in life you can be good at other than football."

Banaszak spent 13 years with the Raiders. "I had a great life and played with some of the greatest players, and one of the great coaches, John Madden.

"It had to be hard for John to coach a bunch like us. He had every weirdo that came down the pike in pro football _ Tooz (John Matuszak), Ted Hendricks, Otis Sistrunk, Jack Tatum, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell. We were the inmates but John ran the asylum."

RANDY WHITE

SUPER BOWL XII

Defensive tackle, Cowboys

The Cowboys' 1-15 season in 1988 was over. Randy White, their future Hall of Fame defensive tackle and Super Bowl XII co-MVP with the late Harvey Martin 11 years earlier, decided the pounding was no longer worth it.

Early in 1989 he approached Tom Landry. "I said, "Coach, I'd like to stick around and see if coaching's in my future,' and he said, "Randy, as long as I've got a job, you've got a job.' Two weeks later he was gone.

"I wasn't ready to get away from football. It was like bam! and I was gone. It wasn't a smooth transition. I missed football a lot."

He could have pursued coaching elsewhere, he said, "but Dallas is my home. I didn't want to get into a situation where I might be coaching someplace one year and another place the next."

"I'd told myself, "When I'm done I'm going to go fishing every day.' Man, that gets old in a hurry."

His name is still as bankable as it was when he walked off the field and into Miller Beer commercials. Since the early '90s he's been an online football tout for Wayne Root's WinningEDGE.com. "I'd never done any handicapping besides by reading the newspaper and picking winners. And losers," he said.

These days, "a team of guys during the week do all the research and put it together and give me their suggestions. I have the final say on who we play (bet on) or don't play."

Then there's Randy White Telecommunications; it sells local, long-distance and Internet land lines. And Randy White's Hall of Fame BBQ & Grill, three within an hour's drive of Dallas. And Smokey Mountain Snuff. He's the national spokesman for that and several Dallas-area real estate projects. He also does Chevrolet commercials for a local dealership. And there are the personal appearances and card shows.

Oh, and White, formerly married and with a 24-year-old daughter, makes custom hunting knives at his 28-acre ranch ("nine horses, about 15 cows, two goats, one dog _ the other one died _ and four cats") in Prosper, 33 miles north of Dallas.

"I've been asked a lot what kind of job I have. I guess I really don't have one. I just do, y'know, different stuff."

So, does he ever bet on his published picks? White sidestepped the question. "I don't give anything out that I myself wouldn't bet on," he said. "I just sell information. It's no different than the pregame shows you see on Fox and CBS and ESPN. Those guys are picking games, picking winners. They just don't pick 'em with the point spread. They've got it easy."

To this day, White said, Dallas' 27-10 victory over the Broncos "is like a blur. I'd have to watch the whole game film again to see what happened. ... The day Harvey Martin and I were chosen co-MVPs, it was my birthday. That's a day I won't forget."

White and Martin had three of the Cowboys' four sacks. Denver was limited to 35 net yards passing, 156 total net yards.

Like many players' memories, the good plays tend to fade or comingle. It's the bad ones that remain vivid, "like a couple from the Pittsburgh games I wish I could have changed," White said. The Steelers beat Dallas 21-17 in Super Bowl X and 35-31 three years later.

CHUCK NOLL

SUPER BOWL 1X, X, XIII, XIV

Coach, Steelers

Chuck Noll could have been a lawyer, approaching the bench, instead of a coach, walking back and forth in front of one.

He played guard and linebacker for Cleveland from 1953 to 1959 and, in offseasons, sold insurance and attended law school. Then the American Football League started up in 1960, "and I got a chance to get a coaching job," starting as one of Sid Gillman's assistants with the Los Angeles (later San Diego) Chargers. "I ended up chucking three years away and going for football."

He remains the only coach with four Super Bowl titles.

He said he hadn't planned for a future beyond coaching. "But I got a call from a friend who said, "I have something for you to do.' He wanted me to go on the board of the Greater Pittsburgh Guild for the Blind. That became my life's work, fundraising."

When the guild merged with the Pittsburgh Blind Association to become Pittsburgh Vision Services, Noll became chairman of the board.

Long before he retired after the 1991 season, Noll was a man of diverse interests _ pilot, gourmet cook, wine connoisseur ...

His interest in wine precedes his Steeler years. "I had friends of Italian descent who made their own wine and put it down in their own basement," he said. "As young men wanting to find the ways of that, we'd test it out occasionally," he said with a chuckle.

In his second year in Pittsburgh, with limited vacation time and the desire to get away with his family, Noll "met some corporate pilots. They kind of talked me into (getting a license)." He learned on a single-propeller, low-wing Beech Bonanza, then graduated to twin-engine planes.

He no longer flies. "Too expensive," he said. "Gas prices reached the point where it became ridiculous."

The games meld together now. Dwight White's end-zone sack of Fran Tarkenton, Terry Bradshaw's touchdown passes of 64 yards to Lynn Swann and 73 to John Stallworth, Glen Edwards' last-play end-zone interception ...

"There is no one moment," Noll said when asked for his favorite memory of those four championships in six years. "Of course, our first one was big from a mental standpoint for our players and our town. Then the fans came to expect it, and so did our players."

More than a decade since he coached his last Steelers game, more than two since their remarkable run of Super Bowls, Noll remains an icon in Pittsburgh.

"Sometimes it's a chore but for the most part I think it's fine," he said. "The people you meet, some get excited and some want to throw things at you."

BART STARR

SUPER BOWL I, II

Quarterback, Packers

Bart Starr was never flashy, not a Mad Bomber, the nickname attached to former Oakland Raiders pass-happy quarterback Daryle Lamonica. Starr, who quarterbacked Green Bay to a still-unmatched three successive NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls, was well, conservative. Efficient.

"Brett Favre probably could throw the ball better on his knees than I could standing," he said with a self-deprecating laugh. "I didn't have that talent, but I was smart and courageous and a good leader."

Bryan Bartlett Starr, Most Valuable Player of Super Bowls I and II, retired in 1971 after a 16-year Hall of Fame career during which he guided the Packers to five NFL titles. He was less successful as their coach from 1975 to 1983 _ two winning seasons, four last-place division finishes.

"I always felt calling me conservative was a misnomer," he said. "It's the same thing they said about Bob Griese later on. We were conservative because our strength was running, just like the Dolphins' was."

Even before retiring as a player, Starr committed time and money to the Rawhide Boys Ranch in New London, Wis., for troubled teens. In 1968 he donated the Corvette he won as MVP of Super Bowl II to the ranch, to be raffled off as a fund-raiser. More recently he has committed to helping children in the Birmingham area through Alabama Corner Stone Schools.

Starr is chairman of Healthcare Realty Services, which develops, leases and manages medical and professional office buildings. He and his wife, Cherry, moved to Birmingham in 1988 to be close to Bart Jr., and his family after their other son, Bret, died of heart failure at 24, the result of a cocaine habit.

His memories of Super Bowls I and II don't center on specific plays. "The biggest memory I have was the significance of the first (game)," he said. "No one has any hint of how big this was going to become, but the flip side was that we'd never seen so much media coverage at any prior championship game.

"I was blessed to be where I was when I was, to be coached by a man like Vince Lombardi and to have the teammates that surrounded me. I was blessed by an outstanding running game, outstanding offensive linemen and receivers and a great defense. For a quarterback, it doesn't get any better than that."

OTIS TAYLOR

SUPER BOWL IV

Receiver, Chiefs

On Jan. 11, 1970 in New Orleans, a city that prides itself on great cuisine, Otis Taylor stuck a fork in the Minnesota Vikings.

With 1 minute, 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter of Super Bowl IV, the Chiefs wide receiver scored the American Football League's last touchdown. He gathered in Len Dawson's pass in the flat at the Vikings' 41, twisted out of the grasp of cornerback Earsell Mackbee, headed down the right sideline and blew past strong safety Karl Kassulke at the 10.

The 46-yard play accounted for the final points (except for Jan Stenerud's extra point) in the Chiefs' 24-7 victory in Tulane Stadium. To Chiefs fans, it remains a highlight-reel moment. To Taylor, "it wasn't that big a deal. We were going to win the game anyway."

It was the last of the AFL-NFL championship games and evened the leagues at two wins apiece. The AFL, with the addition of the Colts, Browns and Steelers, became the AFC.

Taylor was in the middle of an 11-year NFL career with the Chiefs.

When he retired, Taylor said, "I wanted to stay close to the game. I figured with the career I'd had I'd get to stay in the game in an active position. I wanted to coach."

The Chiefs weren't interested. Neither was any other team.

Eventually the Chiefs made Taylor a fulltime scout, a job he held for 11 years. Then he was hired by Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Kansas City to do public relations, running promotions. Often he becomes the event.

"I'll be on the road or just around the city somewhere and somebody will stop me, almost on an everyday basis, and want to talk about when I played. I still get asked for autographs. It's really good to know that people still remember you."

And what about fans who never saw him slice over the middle or streak down the sideline? "They ask me to sign, too," Taylor said. "They tell me how their grandma told 'em about how I used to play."

STORIES BY BRUCE LOWITT OF THE TIMES

RESEARCH BY JOHN MARTIN OF THE TIMES

Former Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian, 59, throws his creativity into oil paintings such as this one, "Cabana Beach."

Garo Yepremian starts to throw his infamous interception as he is pursued by Mike Bass (41) and Bill Brundage.

Ickey Woods started in sales by selling wholesale meats in 1992, opened a company called Quality Floors and now is in sales at Brooks Flooring.

William "Refrigerator" Perry is part-owner of Oversized Outfitters in Birmingham, Ala. and a national spokesman for a company that provides fans for industrial and commercial buildings. But don't expect him to pursue a career in hot dog-eating contests.

Randy White, participating in a charity motorcycle ride, was co-MVP of the Super Bowl XII victory over the Broncos, but the game is "like a blur."

Quarterback Bart Starr, a Hall of Famer inductee in 1977, waves during the 2003 inductions.

Otis Taylor is still in demand for autographs, 34 years after he starred in the Super Bowl.

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