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Texas football great Pete Lammons dies, leaves behind a stirring legacy

In this Dec. 8, 1969, photo, former Longhorn Pete Lammons, second from left, cuts up with New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, left, and others. Lammons, 77, died Thursday.

Pete Lammons, a former All-Southwest Conference tight end for Texas and a key player on the New York Jets team that turned in the most historic Super Bowl upset ever, drowned Thursday during a bass fishing tournament near Brookeland. He was 77.

Lammons, an experienced angler, was fishing near the San Augustine park area on Sam Rayburn Reservoir when he fell from a boat and couldn’t recover as he tried to get back in the boat, a family member told the American-Statesman. He was fishing in the Toyota Series at Sam Rayburn, competing in his 57th tournament.

Lammons, who lived in Houston, will be remembered as a wonderful teammate and gregarious friend who had an active spirit and a large appetite for life. The family and Jody Krautz, Lammons’ longtime girl friend, are planning to hold a memorial in Houston honoring his life.

“Pete was a proven champion,” said former Longhorns running back Ted Koy, whose brother Ernie Jr. was a teammate of Lammons' on the 1963 national championship team. "But off the field, he was a humble person and very likable.”

He starred as a two-way player at end for the Longhorns from 1963 to 1965 and was an All-SWC tight end in 1965.

“We used to kid him,” Ernie Koy Jr. said, “that he caught more passes for more yards in Super Bowl III than he did the whole time he was at Texas. He was just a good, solid football player. He always had a knack for anticipating what was coming up.”

New York Jets tight end Pete Lammons is hit by San Diego Chargers defensive back Kenny Graham during a 1969 game.

Texas didn't throw all that much back in the 1960s. Duke Carlisle completed just 33 passes for 416 yards and a single touchdown in 1963 in Lammons’ first season. But the end was a big target for quarterback Marvin Kristynik the next two years. He was the Longhorns’ leading receiver in 1964 with 13 receptions for 204 yards and a score and again in 1965 when he doubled his workload with 27 catches for 405 yards and four touchdowns.

Lammons played tight end for the Jets from 1966 through 1971, including when they won the first American Football League championship in 1968 and Super Bowl III that season when they shocked Baltimore 16-7 in Miami. In his NFL career from 1966 through 1972, Lammons totaled 185 receptions, 2,364 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Lammons was an avid fisherman his entire life and competed in tournaments for decades, often winning boats and other prizes. At least once or twice a month, he would drive to see Ernie Koy Jr. and fish for bass in his stocked ponds on Koy’s ranch outside Bellville.

“He was a great guy. A real people person,” Ernie Koy said of Lammons. “He was a friend to everybody. He used to kid me that I needed to feed the bass more to make them bigger. But it was always catch and release.”

Several of former Texas and New York Jets player Pete Lammons’ sports memorabilia items, including his 1963 national championship ring and his Super Bowl III ring, will be donated to Jacksonville High School, where he starred for the legendary Bum Phillips before playing for the Longhorns.

Koy admired his buddy’s total recall of past football games they’d played in and people Lammons had briefly met years before. 

And did Lammons enjoy being a student?

“He tolerated class,” Koy said with a chuckle.

Pete’s nephew, Lance Lammons, was saddened by his uncle’s death but thought it was a fitting end for one of his favorite people in the world.

“He left the world doing exactly what he loved,” Lance said.

Several of Lammons’ sports memorabilia items, including his 1963 national championship ring and his Super Bowl III ring, will be donated to Jacksonville High School, where he starred for the legendary Bum Phillips before playing for Texas.

“He wore his rings every day,” Lance said. “They’re fantastic. When I was a little kid, that was all I could see (when he looked at him). I imagined them being on my finger.”

Lammons also gave his nephew a Super Bowl III jersey that he wore in the historic game, and Lance keeps it in a shadow box in his Montgomery home.

In addition, Lance was given a 1970 Green Bay Packers game ball that was signed by the entire team, including quarterback Bart Starr. Lammons finished his NFL career as a Packer.

Lammons was one of a contingent of Longhorns players who were drafted and signed by the Jets, at least in part because the father of fellow Longhorns end George Sauer Jr. was that NFL’s team director of personnel.

Lammons was selected in the eighth round of the Jets’ 1966 AFL draft and joined other college teammates such as defensive back Jim Hudson and tackle John Elliott. There in New York he played for the legendary Weeb Ewbank, much as he had for equally prominent coaches Darrell Royal at Texas and Phillips at Jacksonville.

Billy Dale, a running back on the Longhorns' 1969 national championship team, remembered that one UT coach described Lammons as having “a sweet smile and a mean disposition.”

It was ironic that Lammons and his Longhorns beat Joe Namath and undefeated, No. 1 Alabama in the first Orange Bowl played at night to cap the 1964 season, a game in which Lammons twice intercepted and twice sacked the Crimson Tide quarterback. The two would later team up to beat the Colts with a victory that Namath famously guaranteed during Super Bowl week.

The Jets, 18-point underdogs, never once considered it an upset.

Three days before Namath’s guarantee at the Miami Touchdown Club that the Jets would topple the supposedly unbeatable Colts, it was Lammons who told Ewbank and his staff that they needed to stop showing the players game film of Baltimore.

“My uncle told the coaches to stop showing them film because they were going to get overconfident,” Lance recounted. “It’s funny. Stress was not something he was familiar with.”

It was Sauer who keyed the Super Bowl win with eight catches for 133 yards from MVP Namath, but Lammons had terrific performances in the playoffs, including the AFL championship game against Oakland, to get the Jets to the ultimate game.

“I think my uncle had like two catches for 19 yards,” Lance said, “but both were third-down conversions for first downs to keep drives going.

"My uncle was a giant teddy bear. It was awesome to be around him. He was a second father to me.”