Just weeks before the 1970 season, Gus Hollomon was in Denver's training camp preparing for his third year playing for the Broncos when he was caught up in an audible.
"I was eating breakfast with the quarterback of the Broncos at that time, Steve Tensi, and the hotel people said I had a phone call," Hollomon said. "So I went to the phone and (Denver's director of player personnel) Fred Gehrke told me to come to the office and bring my playbook. That meant you got cut.
"And so went back to the table and told Steve, and he said, 'Well, heck, you're the starting free safety.' And I said, 'Yeah, that's pretty odd.'"
It turned out that Hollomon wasn't cut, but traded to the Jets for sixth-year veteran cornerback Cornell Gordon.
"When I found out that I'd gotten traded to the Jets, I mean, you're in shock because the Jets are one of the top five teams in the league at that time," he said. "And so it was a big surprise."
And while there's life, auto, and homeowners insurance, Hollomon soon realized he was acquired by the Jets as defensive backfield insurance.
"Jim Hudson, just a fantastic player, had hurt his knee the year before. And so they just really traded for me as insurance," Hollomon said. "If Jim's knee came around, then I'm gone. It's just how that game's played. Everybody kind of knows it. And sure enough, his knee didn't recuperate. And so I was in and Jim was out.
"But Jim took me under his wing, and that was what was the odd thing. I was traded to compete for his position and here he showed me around and took care of me."
In the second game of the 1970 season, and making his first start as a Jet, against the then-Boston Patriots at Harvard Stadium, Hollomon collected his first interception for the Green & White when he picked off quarterback Mike Taliaferro and had an eight-yard return. New York won, 31-21.
"What you remember about it is you didn't want to lose against them," Hollomon laughed when referring to the victory-challenged Patriots. "When you played Buffalo and Boston, you didn't want to lose because it was embarrassing. There were some struggling teams out there. And an interception is luck anyway in that they throw it where you are."
During back-to-back games in October of that season against the then-Baltimore Colts and Buffalo Bills, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas and Dennis Shaw threw it where Hollomon was at. He finished the year with a career-high three interceptions and at least one surprising memory.
"The only thing I remember about Johnny Unitas is when I tackled him, you just expected a football player to have muscles. And I don't think he had a muscle on his body," Hollomon laughed. "I was just shocked when I grabbed him. He wasn't musclebound, I can tell you that."
Hollomon could have also told you that the 6-8 record the following season was a little harder to take. While injuries are a part of the game, they were coming like a one-two punch.
Against the Cowboys in Dallas on December 4, he hurt his left wrist.
"The week before we had played San Francisco and I got a hip pointer," Hollomon said. "And so I really wasn't able to play too well and they kept running a screen to Walt Garrison. So (assistant coach) Walt (Michaels) sent me in and said, 'Just stop the screen.'
"And, sure enough, the first play I went in, I slipped and (Dallas' right tackle) Rayfield Wright's helmet came down on my wrist. It was pretty bad. Still today, I never had it operated or anything, but it's not near in the condition of my right hand."
The next game against the Patriots at Shea Stadium, it was his right knee.
"We played in a 30-degree drizzle. The coldest I've ever been in my life. And that's when you realize how long the TV timeout is. You're standing out there and it was so cold that I didn't know that I was hurt," Hollomon said.
"I went in that Monday for an MRI, but I'm allergic to the dye, so they couldn't do it. So I played out that season with a hurt knee. But that was not unusual. I mean, I never played without a broken bone in my hand or something. You know it's something that's broken, you didn't think about it. You just played."
Hollomon spent three seasons in New York under head coach Weeb Ewbank as a free safety, backup punter, and emergency quarterback.
"And not only that, I told Weeb I was pretty good at holding for extra points. And so I held for (Bobby) Howfield," he said. "That was the key, be invaluable to them. Because if they got rid of you, they were getting rid of about five different players."
What are among the fondest memories from his time with the Jets?
"Really, the fondest memory is that (Joe) Namath used to pick me and Steve Tannen up because we lived in the city. And the conversations with Joe riding in to the stadium and how he treated me," Hollomon said.
"It was just an unbelievable life of playing in the NFL. I was single, and I didn't party that much, but I was free to do whatever I wanted, to go wherever I wanted, so it was incredible. I mean, it's just a life that very few people get to live. But it's short-term. You've still got a life afterwards. And I lucked out there, too."
Following football, Hollomon returned home to Texas and got into the education field. First as a teacher at Hamshire-Fannett, and then as a principal at Anahuac, and finally, for the last half of his 30-year career, as a superintendent for the Granger and then Lumberton school districts.
"It was a dream come true. Because I wasn't a bad kid, but I could have been that way. But I had an elementary principal that just took care of me and gave me special attention. And it really changed my life around," Hollomon said.
"I was poor kid without a father, and so to have somebody like him, I wanted to emulate him. I wanted to be just like Mr. (Paul) Carlyle. So that led me into education. And then when I got there, I just knew that's exactly where I needed to be in life, in the education business."
Now retired and making his home in Cameron, Texas, Hollomon, a widower, has three children: Cameron, Blair, and Logan; and five grandchildren.
"I just have the greatest life ever," Hollomon said. "Where I live, I own 300 acres, and it is the prettiest place. I have my animals and I garden. And I still attend a lot of NFL fundraisers. I carve bowls and charcuterie boards and things like that, and donate them to raise money."