New York Jets lineman John Schmitt won a Super Bowl ring with the team in 1969, but he only wore the ring for two years. Now he has it back.
Schmitt, 68, lost the ring while surfing in Waikiki in 1971, just two years after his team pulled off its stunning upset of the Baltimore Colts, in the famous victory "guaranteed" by Joe Namath. He noticed it missing as soon as he reached the beach, but couldn't find it again.
“I got a snorkel and some flippers and I went out and I dove until I was blue,” Schmitt said. “I’m not kidding you. It must have been three hours. I was out there looking. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was just exhausted. I virtually could not swim or flip my legs anymore. And I just went in broken-hearted.”
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Schmitt couldn't find the ring, but at some point in the next few years a lifeguard named John Ernstberg did, according to Hawaii News Now. Ernstberg brought it home and gave it to his wife, who put it in a box where it remained for decades.
Ernstberg died in 1991, and his wife, Mary, died four years later. Ernstberg's great niece Cindy Saffery eventually inherited the ring and took it to a jeweler for appraisal. Once she and her husband, Samuel, learned the ring was real and belonged to a Super Bowl winner, they wanted to get it back on its rightful finger. They got hold of Schmitt through the team.
"It's a legacy," Samuel Saffery said. "He put a lot of hard work into this to earn this. This is not something that you just can buy off the street. This is something that you earn, so for Mr. Schmitt he earned this ring so by right it'll make me feel good to put it personally back into his hand."
Schmitt, who lives on Long Island, is thrilled to have the ring back just as his old team is making its drive to appear in the team's second Super Bowl.
“I couldn’t believe it," he said. "I mean I honestly couldn’t believe it. I mean 40 years. That that ring was found is a bloody miracle. It really is a miracle, you know."