Long after his favorite team had disposed of Washington in Super Bowl XVIII, Jack Squirek (pronounced SKWY-rik), the father of the Los Angeles linebacker of the same name, stood outside Tampa Stadium looking like a typical Raider follower. He wore a black and silver Raider cap, and a long, white, homemade banner was wrapped around his shoulders. Though the evening air was chilly, Squirek wore no jacket, just a T shirt, and he allowed that he was a little overheated. He had that half-wild Raider look in his eye.
"I'll show you the banner," he said, unraveling it. "See, here's my son's name and number. And here's Lyle Alzado's name. We put Lyle on the banner because he's from the Cleveland area, too."
Just then, the younger Jack Squirek, No. 58 in your program and on the family banner, strolled through the players' gate to the largest ovation he has received in his two seasons as a Raider. He was dressed conservatively; even his Western-style boots were a subdued black. His high-cheekboned, all-American face was flushed with excitement and embarrassment as Squireks of all ages threw their arms around him. He looked at his father and smiled shyly. Young Jack's not the kind of guy to have a banner wrapped around his shoulders.
"You know how some guys act in high school after they catch a pass?" said the elder Squirek, a maintenance worker for the Ford Motor Company in Cleveland. "They lift their hands up so everybody can see what they did? Well, even back then, Jack was never like that. After he caught a pass [he was a tight end at Cuyahoga Heights High], he'd just kind of put his head down like he was embarrassed about it."
Squirek had a lot to be red-faced about Sunday. Seconds before halftime, Raider linebacker coach Charlie Sumner reached deep into his defensive grab bag and plucked out Squirek, a pass-defense specialist. Squirek promptly intercepted an ill-advised Joe Theismann screen pass and trotted in five yards for the touchdown that was L.A.'s most telling blow of the game.
A 1982 second-round pick out of Illinois, Squirek joined the Raiders just as Matt Millen was emerging as one of the NFL's best inside linebackers. Squirek is quicker and faster than Millen and thus more useful in prevent situations, but he isn't about to move Millen out of the starting lineup. Nor out of the headlines. Millen is a reporter's delight, a guy who's quick with one-liners and defensive gobbledygook, while Squirek is quiet and tentative in public, and not at all analytical in his approach to the game. "Tell you the truth, I never really look at our formations that closely," he admits. While Millen held court daily with reporters during Super Bowl week, Squirek sat quietly by, observing the goings-on. "I was interviewed about four times," he said. "It doesn't bother me, really it doesn't."
Even after scoring the TD, his first ever as a pro or collegian, Squirek was subdued, forcibly. "I must've had 2,000 pounds [of teammates] jump on top of me," he said. "I never got a chance to spike."
Then he heard his name over the P.A. system. "It sounded to me like they said 'squirrel,' " he said. Later, in the commotion of the victory celebration, he would misplace the football he'd carried over the goal line. But for one shining moment Sunday afternoon, Squirek had something more important. "Timing, Jack," said Millen. "You really had timing."
Squirek stole the football on the field, but lost it off it.