A never give up attitude. Confidence in his ability. And a hefty telephone bill. That combination helped Chuck Ramsey eventually become a punter for the Jets.
Chosen by New England in the 1974 NFL Draft out of Wake Forest, Ramsey decided to accept an offer for more money from the upstart, and as it would turn out, short-lived World Football League.
“It folded after one year,” Ramsey said, “And for two years, I could not get an NFL team to take a phone call. And I led the league in punting and was (Chicago Fire’s) placekicker, as well. I couldn’t get an NFL team to talk to me because as it turned out, we were blackballed. So, for ’75 and ’76, I didn’t play at all. I just took small jobs and punted in my yard.
“I would watch games on TV and I knew I could out-punt those guys. It was discouraging a lot of times. I would see a guy have a bad game, a horrible game, and I would call (that team) on Monday. I didn’t get to talk to a coach, but I would talk to a receptionist after she talked the coach and they would say, ‘Mr. Ramsey, we’re satisfied with who we have. But we appreciate your call.’ And then I’d watch (that same team) the next week and they’d have another punter. That happened several times. It was two years of hell.”
On September 25, 1977, while Ramsey and his wife were housesitting for a family and watching their 12-year-old son, the boy grew tired from skateboarding and headed inside for a break.
“I was in the kitchen making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and he came in and sat down on the couch and said, ‘Mr. Ramsey, come here and watch this,’” Ramsey said. “Well, I walked in and saw the replay. It was the Jets’ punter Duane Carrell on the 5-yard line. He missed the snap and the ball hit his shoulder pad and went up in the air with a minute and 10 seconds to go in the game. He recovered it on the 2-yard line. He didn’t kick it out of the end zone like he should have and give them two points. So, that gave the Colts four downs to punch it in for a touchdown (and a 20-12 win).
“I called the Jets the next day even though my wife was screaming at me not to because we spent so much on long-distance phone calls. I’d told her that I will not ever, ever, ever make another long-distance phone call. And when I saw that, I said, ‘OK, I’m going to make one more phone call.’ I had already called every NFL team probably four or five times. At least.
“I finally talked her into letting me call, and Joe Gardi, the Jets special teams coach, came to the phone. He said, ‘Chuck, can I call you back? We’re in a staff meeting and we’re talking about you right now.’ I just about dropped the phone. I had not gotten a coach to talk to me in two years. In 30 minutes, he called, and the next day they flew me in. I could not believe that I’m on a plane up to the New York Jets.”
Successfully making the step from his backyard to Shea Stadium, Ramsey made his NFL debut that week, ironically against the Patriots. Averaging 37.7 yards on seven punts, he helped the Jets win their first game of the season, 30-27.
With New York for eight seasons from 1977-84, Ramsey and kicker Pat Leahy offered the Green & White stability on special teams.
“I think Pat was the most underrated placekicker in the NFL the whole time I was there. First of all, we kicked at Shea, and Shea was a horrible place to punt or to kick a football at,” Ramsey said. “Pat and I had a running joke. As soon as the schedule would come out, the first thing we’re looking for is how many indoor (games) do we have this year because the AFC East was a horrible place to punt and kick.
“You had Buffalo. Are you kidding me? The winds could blow you over just standing there. Try punting a football in that. And it was just hard to do that in Shea Stadium. Especially when you’re fair-catching your own punts. Coaches take a dim view of that.”
After everything he went through to even play in the NFL, what makes Ramsey most proud of his career?
“Being able to come back after two years watching football on TV, and people saying, ‘Man, why don’t you just give it up? Just go ahead and become an insurance agent or get in real estate or something,’” Ramsey said. “I didn’t want to start a career because I knew I could still play football. I just wasn’t making any money doing it out in my backyard.
“I was going into my third year without playing football and finally, when I saw that one thing. When that 12-year-old kid… And what are the chances of that? I’ve always said, ‘That’s divine intervention.’ Had he not come in for 30 seconds from skateboarding just to catch his breath…”
Making his home in Knoxville, Tennessee, Ramsey has three adult children: Courtney, Blair and Shea; and seven grandchildren. He is a distributor for the medical device, BEMER, which is an electromagnetic field therapy mat.
“It’s about two inches thick, great big wide and six foot long. You lie down on it eight minutes in the morning and eight minutes in the evening, and it opens up all of your microcapillaries. It increases blood flow by 30 percent,” Ramsey said. “A lot of NFL players, a lot of Major League Baseball players, a lot of golfers, are using it right now. It’s an incredible device that’s doing miraculous things for people.”