Updated, 3:02 p.m. ET
Jet Nation today and this week has been mourning the passing of George Sauer, a superb wide receiver from the franchise's Super Bowl days.
"We will always remember George Sauer for his role in the New York Jets' run that culminated with a historic victory in Super Bowl III as well as the strength of his convictions off the field," Jets owner Woody Johnson said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as we say goodbye to someone whose unforgettable contributions will always be a part of this organization's history.
Sauer, who died Tuesday at the age of 69, was the wideout from Texas who packed a superb career into only six NFL seasons, all with the Jets, and crowned it with a starring offensive role alongside MVP Joe Namath and RB Matt Snell in the Jets' 16-7 triumph over the Baltimore Colts on Jan. 12, 1969.
With fellow fantastic wideout Don Maynard hampered by a hamstring pull, Maynard came up big-time in the AFL-NFL Championship Game, leading all receivers that day with eight catches for 133 yards. The long pass play of the game was a 39-yarder from Namath to Sauer to the Colts 10 late in the third quarter that set up the Jets' final field goal early in the fourth for a 16-0 lead.
Head coach Rex Ryan had some observations about that game at the top of his news conference following today's second day of the Jets rookie minicamp. Ryan, you'll recall, was around the 1968 team with his dad, Buddy, who'd just been hired to coach the Jets defensive line that year.
"Everybody knew about Don Maynard, but George Sauer stepped up in the biggest moment. That's what I'll about George," Ryan said. "My thoughts go out to his family."
Big games and big seasons were the norm in the compact career of Sauer, the 6'2", 195-pound split end who wore No. 83 and, along with No. 13 Maynard and No. 12 Namath, posted big numbers against American Football League pass defenses during the latter half of the Sixties.
He had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons, from 1966-68, with his most prolific season coming in '67 — an AFL-leading 75 catches for 1,189 yards and six touchdowns. He finished his career with 309 receptions (ninth in franchise history) for 4,965 yards (sixth), a 16.1 yards/catch average and 28 TDs and a pair of two-point conversions for 172 points.
He played 84 games for the Jets from '65-70 and was named to four consecutive AFL all-star teams, from 1966-69 and twice to the AFL All-Pro first team.
George Henry Sauer Jr. was born in Sheboygan, Wis., on Nov. 10, 1943. to George Sauer Sr., a back with the Packers for three seasons in the Thirties and the Jets' director of player personnel in 1965, when Sauer Jr. decided to leave Texas with a year of eligibility remaining. He was the Jets' fifth pick of the 1965 AFL redshirt draft and his career began.
Sauer was a cerebral man of different pursuits. He left the Jets and football after the 1970 season because, he said, he was unhappy with the way the game treated players. But he admitted he still liked the game and so he made a short return in 1974 with the New York Stars and Charlotte Hornets of the World Football League before hanging up the pads, then was an assistant coach in 1979 for the Carolina Chargers of the American Football Association.
He wrote novels and poetry, reviewed books, and was a textbook graphics specialist in St. Paul, Minn., in the Nineties. He died in Westerville, Ohio, of congestive heart failure after a struggle with Alzheimer's disease.
Here are Sauer's career receiving statistics with the Jets: