Veteran fullback Chuck Mercein had a solid reputation and strong recommendation when he joined the defending Super Bowl III Champion Jets in 1970.
Chosen by the Giants in the NFL Draft and by the Buffalo Bills in the AFL Draft in 1965 out of Yale, Mercein would spend two seasons with New York, rushing for a team- and career-high 327 yards in his second campaign, before joining Green Bay in 1967.
Mercein helped the Packers beat Dallas in that year's NFL Championship Game, known as the Ice Bowl thanks to a 13 degrees below zero afternoon at Lambeau Field, when he accounted for 34 of the 68 yards in the Packers' fourth quarter game-winning drive. Two weeks later, Green Bay beat Oakland is Super Bowl II.
In 1970, Mercein went to Washington's training camp intending to play for his former coach with the Packers, Vince Lombardi, but was released late in the preseason.
"I wasn't sure that I was going to play anymore. I was already involved in my career as an institutional sales trader on Wall Street, and my career was going quite well. My employers wanted me to work full-time, and they offered to triple my salary. So while I wasn't sure I wanted to play, in my heart, I did want to play," Mercein said.
"So what happened was, the Jets' fullback Matt Snell got injured (three games into the season) and I knew they'd be looking for a fullback. I was friendly with some of the Jets, in particular with Joe Namath. So that night after he got hurt, I went over to Bachelor's III because I knew Joe would be there.
"We got together and I said, 'If you're interested, I'm still in good shape and I'm ready to go.' He knew all about me and my career and said, 'Chuck, we can use you. Matt's out. Let me talk to Weeb (Ewbank).'"
The next morning, the Jets coach called Mercein and asked him to come in so that he could see if he was in shape. That same day, Mercein also got a call from Dallas coach Tom Landry about joining the Cowboys.
"So now I was in a quandary, whether I should go down and play with Dallas, which I was familiar with in the NFL, or go into the AFL and play with the Jets," Mercein said. "My wife kind of helped me with that decision. She said, 'Well, if you go to Dallas, I'm not coming with you because I'm expecting, and you haven't been around for the first three.' Which is true. I'd been playing and missed the births of all the kids. So I said, 'Alright, that's it. I'll go and play with the Jets.'"
Mercein would spend nine games with them that season, including the first regular-season matchup against his former team, the Giants, who won, 22-10.
"A strange thing happened to me in that game. We were down by our own end zone, and Al Woodall called a play which called for me to just dive up the middle to try to gain us some yards," Mercein said. "But he really didn't call the play correctly. I was supposed to go through the 1-hole, or the hole on the right side of the center, but he called it so that he was going to handoff to the left side.
"I didn't know which way to go. Should I go where the hole was going to be or where I knew that he was going to be? But if I went there, there wasn't going to be any blocking. So I went where he was going to be so he didn't end up getting crushed. But I ended up getting crushed and putting the ball on the ground, a fumble.
"So I fumbled and caused a safety. That was the only time I ever had anything like that happen to me. And it was against the Giants! I was kind of embarrassed. But in a sense, I was just trying to do what I could do to save what I thought would probably be a safety by Woodall because there wasn't any blocking over there."
The Jets would finish the season with a 4-10 record.
"The team didn't have the year that everybody was excited about, to follow up on '69. But I finished out the year and then the next year, I retired," Mercein said. "I had six years in the league, and the last one, quietly, I would have to say with the Jets. But still, I loved the players I played with. They were terrific. Especially the offensive line: Winston Hill, John Schmitt, Randy Rasmussen, Dave Herman. I enjoyed the camaraderie of the team. The people there were all great guys."
The proud father of four: Tommy, who works on Wall Street; KKay, an attorney; Suzi, a high school teacher; and Jenny, a college professor; Mercein also has 14 grandchildren. Making his home in White Plains, New York, with his wife, Jody, he is enjoying retirement after a lengthy career in finance on Wall Street.
"I started while I was playing and I retired just about eight years ago," Mercein said. "I ended up as a managing director at a couple of the last firms I was with, and I was sort of like a partner in a firm.
"My responsibilities as an institutional sales trader, on the trading desk, I was in contact with the people who had the big orders on the other side. Meaning the people at the institutions like mutual funds, banks, insurance companies, hedge funds. They would get orders to buy and sell stocks and I would try to recruit those orders, and then take them and get the other sides of the trades, to continue to bring business into the firms.
"So it was an active job, very exciting to be on the trading floor. I found it a good segue from football, which was exciting too. Every day was a new day, a new ballgame, if you will. It was an interesting choice of a career for me."