Have things changed for the pro athlete? Just ask Jack Squirek,
an obscure Los Angeles Raiders linebacker who returned an
interception for a touchdown in L.A.'s 38-9 victory over the
Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII and wound up frozen in
time on SI's cover. These days, out-of-the-blue Super Bowl
heroes--see current Oakland Raiders Desmond Howard and Larry
Brown--go on to big cars and big bucks, whether they've earned
them or not. Squirek? "Gosh, I'm sort of embarrassed to say," he
says. "I only got one deal, and it was $1,000 to sign autographs
outside a store."
That was it? "Well, I was happy."
In truth, Squirek, now 38 and owner of a Cleveland-area
janitorial service, received a lot more. Until that Super Bowl
he was one of the NFL's faceless masses, a hard-working,
soft-spoken kid in his second year out of Illinois who had spent
most of his time backing up Matt Millen at inside linebacker.
Then, with five seconds left in the first half and the Redskins
deep in their own territory, Raiders linebacker coach Charlie
Sumner sent Squirek in to shadow running back Joe Washington.
Skins quarterback Joe Theismann tossed a soft screen in
Washington's direction. Squirek nonchalantly stepped in, grabbed
the ball, strolled five yards to the end zone and held it high
in the air--giving Los Angeles a 21-3 lead and SI a memorable
image. "If I was an All-Pro, I would've made more money and
probably would have played longer," he says, "but if you ask me
what I'd rather have, an average career for a long time or a
chance to make a play in the Super Bowl, I'd take the Super Bowl
Longevity wasn't in the cards for Squirek. Seven months later,
in a preseason game against the Miami Dolphins, his jaw was
broken when Dolphins wideout Fernanza Burgess threw a vicious
block on him. Squirek played the next two years despite severe
headaches, an aftereffect of the hit. The Raiders cut him in
1986, and he retired soon after.
These days the ball he intercepted is on display in the family
living room. So is a framed SI cover. "We'll watch a tape of the
game about once a year," says Squirek, who, with his wife,
Penny, has a son Jacob, 6, and a daughter Cassandra, 2. "My son
is finally starting to understand football a bit. My having
played is kind of thrilling to him. But it's weird--he probably
thinks everyone's dad played football."
Precious few dads, though, have had that moment.
COLOR PHOTO: ANDY HAYT [Cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED featuring Jack Squirek]