Remembering ‘Super’ Sunday

Local athletes look back on their Super Bowl experiences

By: C & G Sports Staff | C&G Newspapers | Published January 29, 2020

 De La Salle graduate Chris Godfrey (61) helped the New York Giants win Super Bowl XXI in 1987.

De La Salle graduate Chris Godfrey (61) helped the New York Giants win Super Bowl XXI in 1987.

Photo provided by the New York Football Giants

 A photo of Ray Hayes still hangs in the halls of Clawson High, and the former Trojan considers it a dream come true to be a Super Bowl champion.

A photo of Ray Hayes still hangs in the halls of Clawson High, and the former Trojan considers it a dream come true to be a Super Bowl champion.

Photo by Deb Jacques, provided by Clawson High

  As a member of the New York Jets, Ray Hayes won Super Bowl III over the Baltimore Colts. The Jets defeated the Colts 16-7 in what is considered the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. Hayes played special teams for the Jets in his rookie season.

As a member of the New York Jets, Ray Hayes won Super Bowl III over the Baltimore Colts. The Jets defeated the Colts 16-7 in what is considered the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. Hayes played special teams for the Jets in his rookie season.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Pictured is the ring Hayes received for winning.

Pictured is the ring Hayes received for winning.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day’s Bennie Fowler breaks a tackle in the 2008 Division 4 state final game.

Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day’s Bennie Fowler breaks a tackle in the 2008 Division 4 state final game.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Farmington Hills Harrison’s Devin Funchess prepares to take the field before the 2010 Division 2 state final.

Farmington Hills Harrison’s Devin Funchess prepares to take the field before the 2010 Division 2 state final.

Photo by David Schreiber

 Jim Sorgi, right, is pictured in 2005 during a ceremony retiring his jersey at Fraser High. From the Ramblers, Sorgi played at the University of Wisconsin before joining the Indianapolis Colts.

Jim Sorgi, right, is pictured in 2005 during a ceremony retiring his jersey at Fraser High. From the Ramblers, Sorgi played at the University of Wisconsin before joining the Indianapolis Colts.

File photo by Deb Jacques

METRO DETROIT — From Jets to Giants to Colts, when the NFL puts on its brightest lights, local athletes from the C & G coverage area have been there.

Even in just a few days, when Super Bowl LIV kicks off Feb. 2, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek graduate Eric Fisher will be there anchoring the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line.

 Here’s a closer look at some of the athletes who know what it’s like to take the field on Super Sunday.  

 

‘It’s like a dream come true’
There are times when Ray Hayes lets his mind wander back to that day 51 years ago.

It was Jan. 12, 1969, and the Clawson High graduate was a rookie with the Joe Namath-led New York Jets.

The AFL champions were taking on the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. In fact, the Colts were favored by 18 points, but according to Hayes, the Jets were full of confidence, thanks to their quarterback, who famously guaranteed victory.

“A lot of people look back at that as a changing point. I do too,” Hayes said of the guarantee. “We all had confidence in Namath, and we knew if he was going to be on target, we would be OK. With him guaranteeing it, I think everybody stepped up.”

The Jets handled the Colts, winning 16-7. To this day, that victory is still considered the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. Namath completed 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards and was named the Super Bowl MVP.

It was also the first time an AFL team had won the Super Bowl over an NFL team.

“My dad was in the stands, and he said the look on people’s faces as the game progressed, it was like they were in shock,” Hayes said.

The experience of being a champion is something Hayes will never forget.

“Growing up in athletics, I think anybody has always desired to be a world champion in something. It’s like a dream come true,” Hayes said.

Hayes, who played at the University of Toledo following Clawson, was primarily used on special teams throughout the championship year.

He retired in 1970. Now 73 years old, Hayes works as the Deerfield Township supervisor. He still has his ring and reflects on his playing career on occasion.

“Sit and just think what I’ve done in the past and opportunities that it’s given me, different things,” Hayes said, noting that people are often surprised to hear he’s a former NFL pro. “I do that quite often: I’ll reflect back and think about how fortunate I’ve been. A lot of it I think is just being in the right place at the right time and getting the opportunity to play.”


Godfrey and the Giants
Winning a Super Bowl championship has long-standing benefits, according to De La Salle graduate Chris Godfrey.

Godfrey started on the offensive line in Super Bowl XXI (21), played Jan. 25, 1987. The New York Giants beat the Denver Broncos 39-20.

“We’ve all been great recipients of a lot of joy and happiness from the Giants faithful,” said Godfrey, who also played at the University of Michigan and with the United States Football League’s Michigan Panthers.

“Those fans went about 30 years without having a good team. We’re remembered today because of that. My daughter was recently in a restaurant and was treated very nicely because of that. People remember that championship, and they’re grateful for it.”

That Super Bowl was played in territory familiar to Godfrey, who now runs a law firm in South Bend, Indiana. The game took place in the Rose Bowl — where Godfrey played three times with the Wolverines. The Super Bowl champion left U of M in 1980 with a business degree.

Godfrey’s Wolverines went 0-3 in those Rose Bowls. His experience in Pasadena with the Giants ended a bit differently. The Giants allowed just one sack and had zero turnovers. The Broncos, led by John Elway, let up four sacks.

“We’d played the Broncos in the regular season in a close game. We studied their personnel closely,” said Godfrey. “We had a great game plan. Our offensive line was confident and Phil Simms played great.”

With a commanding lead late in the game, Godfrey had a chance to try and take it all in.

“We were able to have an extended celebration. That gave us time to soak it all up. Being there in the middle of the Rose Bowl — a place I’d played before with less than happy results — that evening was much different,” he said.

Godfrey admitted that the team felt good about its chances in the playoffs. One year prior, the Giants lost in the postseason to the eventual Super Bowl champs — the famed ’85 Chicago Bears. Godfrey said the group took that loss as a learning experience.

“We felt very confident, certainly late in the season,” Godfrey said. “Our momentum was such that we thought we’d win the game. We weren’t cocky. We just thought we could win.”

Godfrey said the score in the 19-point victory wasn’t indicative of the level of play.

“The Super Bowl is a game of heavyweights. Both teams come out throwing big punches, and at some point one of the teams is going to land a haymaker and the other team is going to go down,” Godfrey said. “That’s kind of what happened in this game.”

Godfrey’s life has taken an interesting turn. After his playing days, he went on to earn a law degree from the University of Notre Dame. He’s also the president and founder of Life Athletes.

“It’s a lot of fun here in South Bend, especially when (Michigan and Notre Dame) are playing each other,” said Godfrey. “It seems, though, like everybody’s second-favorite team around here is Michigan.”

Being an athlete has run in the Godfrey genes. Two of his daughters swam for Michigan, while his sons played football, including one at Ball State University.

Godfrey has been able to share his experiences and learn from all six of his children.

“My kids even taught me how to swim,” he said. “Football in particular is a great sport. It’s getting a bad rap because of the much-reported injuries, and the fact that a lot of money is being thrown around is making it worse.

“Football has taught my boys a lot of lessons. They’ve made a lot of friends. I’m glad I could share it with them.”


‘It’s a spectacle’
Fraser High graduate and former Harrison Township resident Jim Sorgi was a part of two teams that made it to the Super Bowl, both with the Indianapolis Colts.

Sorgi was a backup to quarterback Peyton Manning when the Colts won Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears in 2007. Things didn’t go as well in Super Bowl XLIV in 2010. The Colts fell to the New Orleans Saints.

Sorgi, who is the owner and CEO of Sorgi Sports, described his first Super Bowl experience as “fantastic.” He recalled running out of the tunnel and the flashes from all the cameras going off.

“It’s everything you think about and more,” Sorgi said. “It’s a spectacle. … It’s packed. It’s excitement; it’s nerves.”

As for Sorgi’s second Super Bowl appearance, well …

“It was kind of like getting to that pinnacle, getting dressed for the dance, and not dancing,” Sorgi said.

When asked about his favorite part of the Super Bowl appearances, the locale was on Sorgi’s mind. Both games were played in Miami Gardens, Florida.

However, as nice as the setting was, it’s hard to beat the feeling of coming away as a Super Bowl champion.

“I think just the fact to know that in that one instance, that one year, I was a part of the greatest football team is kind of something special,” Sorgi said.

From Fraser High to the University of Wisconsin to two Super Bowl appearances with the Colts, it’s been quite the football life for Sorgi.

“I’ve been so blessed in my life to be a part of really, really, really good teams,” Sorgi said. “It’s kind of storybook, the things I’ve been able to do with football, the places it’s taken me, and the type of memorabilia and the memories I have from those times.”

Sports Writers Zachary Manning, Jason Carmel Davis and Mark Vest contributed to this story.

 


‘Super’ moments

Here’s a quick look at some of the other local athletes and coaches who played their parts in the big game:

• Bennie Fowler, Super Bowl 50, Feb. 7, 2016: The Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day graduate made sure he’d be remembered in the history books. Fowler caught Peyton Manning’s last pass — a 2-point conversion — helping lead the Denver Broncos to a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

• Frank Zombo, Super Bowl XLV (45), Feb. 6, 2011: From his outside linebacker spot, the Sterling Heights Stevenson graduate made an impact for the Green Bay Packers. In the 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Zombo finished the game with five tackles, including two for a loss.

• T.J. Lang, Super Bowl XLV (45): A Birmingham Brother Rice graduate, Lang also earned a Super Bowl ring with the Packers. The offensive lineman retired in 2019, finishing his career with the Detroit Lions.

• Mike Lodish, six Super Bowl appearances: Another Brother Rice graduate, Lodish is tied for second in all-time Super Bowl appearances. Only Tom Brady has been in more. The defensive lineman was in four straight Super Bowl losses with the Buffalo Bills from 1991 to 1994, but then went on to win two championships with the Denver Broncos in 1998 and again in 1999.

• Devin Funchess, Super Bowl 50: On the other side of the field as Fowler, the Farmington Hills Harrison graduate finished with two catches for 40 yards for the Panthers.

• Bill Sheridan, Super Bowl XLII (42), Feb. 3, 2008: Currently a linebackers coach for Boston College, the De La Salle graduate held the same position for the New York Giants when they beat the previously undefeated New England Patriots 17-14. Sheridan’s coaching career began as an assistant for Royal Oak Shrine back in 1981.