Bob Mischak had an interesting itinerary both before he became the New York Titans' only three-time All-AFL player and in the many years thereafter.
"I had been playing with the New York Giants," Mischak reflected this week. "I got an appendix operation just before what would've been my second year with them. The darned thing burst, my contract ran out and since I didn't renew it with them, I was released.
"Then the American Football League started. I had gotten out of the service. My wife produced twins, we needed some income, and I wasn't totally happy working with the telephone company in New Jersey."
That's how Mischak wound up in navy and gold for all three years of the Titans' existence. The money actually was better in the AFL than in the NFL — at least in theory, since soon after he got there, Mischak and his teammates experienced those infamous late and/or missed paychecks from owner Harry Wismer.
And even though he was a compact 6'0" and 237 pounds, he turned into one of the early AFL's top interior linemen with a natural athleticism that was uncovered in his days at the USMA.
"At West Point they gave you an athletic test ever year with a maximum grade of 800. I could get the 800 but I didn't practice it or know why," he said. "You tried to play well and then you tried to play with some smarts as you were learning the game. In my own mind, anytime I got in an athletic contest, I was trying to win."
The Titans had no winning seasons and a three-year record of 19-23, but they graduated many fine athletes to the Jets in 1963. Four of them — WR Don Maynard, LB Larry Grantham, RB Bill Mathis and P Curley Johnson — will be honored Sunday as the only Titans who went on to play for the Jets' Super Bowl III team.
And Mischak excelled at left guard while he wore the Navy & Gold. He was the only Titan to make the first All-AFL team in 1960. Then he played in the first two AFL All-Star Games in '61 and '62.
He didn't make the transition to Green & White. He played for the Oakland Raiders from 1963-65 before his football career came to an end. Of his Titans period, he said, not bitterly, "Harry and the paychecks and all the other things at some point were both aggravating and humorous. But you all suffered the same."
Mischak sounded as if he and his wife, Doris, have enjoyed the post-Titans years just fine. One of his gigs in the late Eighties and early Nineties was to journey to Italy or West Germany or England and help corporations looking for new revenue streams by coaching American-rules pro football teams.
"In Italy, I coached in Bologna and Ravenna," he recalled. "My wife and I would go over and live in that country for five or six months, then come back to the States. Doris' maiden name is Marinelli. She was my interpreter. It was a nice tour of duty."
Today, Mischak still lives in the San Francisco Bay area that he moved to after his stay in New York and will turn 75 later this month. He just recently heard about Titans Throwback Day that will be celebrated with the Jets wearing their predecessors' uniforms against the Eagles. And he had a pensive thought for the Titans he went to battle with more than four decades ago.
"Some of them made it, some didn't. Everybody aspired to it, everybody worked to be a party to it," he said. "They had their dreams. Some had their dreams turn into reality. Others are still dreaming. I wish them all well."