The Jets chose 18 players during the 1973 NFL Draft. But only one, Burgess Owens, who was selected in the first round, would play in more games than offensive lineman Garry Puetz, the team's 12th-round draft pick out of Valparaiso.
"I was elated," Puetz said. "Valpo's a small school in Indiana and doesn't really have people in the NFL. I was the second guy. (Green Bay Packers guard) Fuzzy Thurston actually came from Valpo, as well. So, I was very excited to come to New York and play with the Jets."
While Puetz, who was the 300th player taken in the Draft, may have had to beat the odds to actually "play with the Jets," his chances got better after catching the attention of a couple veteran offensive linemen.
"Winston Hill was always very helpful to me and Randy Rasmussen was always very helpful," Puetz said. "I came in and probably wasn't expected to do too much. But watching those guys and then learning from them along the way, really helped a lot. I'm forever indebted to them because they didn't necessarily have to do that. But by helping me out and kind of keeping after me, they really helped me make the team."
Puetz not only made the team, but when the season opened on the road against the Green Bay Packers, the rookie found himself starting at right guard.
"It was, I guess, you don't know what you don't know. At Valpo, I played probably in front of 1,000 fans, tops," Puetz said. "But that was that was really exciting. My first game was a Monday night game in Milwaukee against the Packers. And so, being from Chicago, that was close enough, we had a lot of people come out and see that game in person.
"It was it was a dream come true. It was really exciting, and everyone got a big kick out of it. And I got a mention from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football, so that was that was great, as well."
In five seasons from 1973-77, Puetz and his teammates played under six head coaches – Weeb Ewbank, Charley Winner, Ken Shipp, Lou Holtz, Mike Holovak and Walt Michaels. For years, stadium concessioners have shouted, 'You need a program to know the players.' At least in New York during that time, you'd need one to know who was on the sideline too.
"Well, it's kind of difficult, obviously. You rarely see that," Puetz said. "From a continuity standpoint, it was it was difficult for all of us learning different personalities. different expectations for the coaches. Going through that year after year after year, it's difficult for a team to get any kind of consistency under that scenario. It was just hard to do that. But it's something we had to deal with."
Something else that Puetz had to deal with during his five full seasons with the Jets was playing every position on the line. Starting off at right guard, he played there, except for one game at center in 1974, during his first three years. In his fourth season, he played right tackle. The next one, at left tackle.
And after that, well, he became a Buccaneer.
"I ran out of spots I suppose. They got tired of moving me up and down the line," Puetz laughed. "They had a guy come in by the name of Dan Alexander, who was a really good player. He was starting at right guard, and so I guess I became expendable and they waived me. About a week after I was waived, I ended up getting a phone call from the Bucs. It turned out to be a good transition."
Over 10 seasons, Puetz would also spend time with Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, New England and Washington, where he was on the Redskins' Super Bowl XVII championship team. What set Jets fans apart from those others?
"There's pluses and minuses for all the fans and all those different places. I had great relationships with all those folks, but obviously New York being my first and longest tenure as an NFL player has a special place in my heart," Puetz said.
"Jet fans were great. They were knowledgeable and they were very enthusiastic. I loved playing with the Jets, they were great folks to be around. I was from Chicago and so the big city wasn't a big deal for me. But the fact that I was in New York and the New Yorkers were so welcoming and so much fun to be around, it was really a pleasure playing there."
Following his playing days, Puetz was an assistant coach on Dan Henning's staff with the Atlanta Falcons for three years. He would then stay in Georgia, where he'd get into student transportation for 23 years. First with Gwinnett and DeKalb counties, Puetz retired in 2017 as Forsyth County's Director of Transportation.
"I was with them for 14 years and was responsible for the entire program," Puetz said. "We had about 350 school bus drivers and by the time I left, about 40,000 kids. It was a lot of fun and something I enjoyed doing.
"That was another career I really loved. I loved school bus drivers. They are a great bunch of people to work with and they do a great job. I feel very fortunate that I was able to get into that and finish up my (post-football) career with them."
Puetz and his wife, Cindy, make their home in Dahlonega, Georgia, a small college [University of North Georgia] town in the foothills of the Appalachians. They have two adult sons: Matthew and Andrew.