It is one of the defining moments in the history of the National Football League.
The NFL’s venerable Baltimore Colts vs. the New York Jets of the fledgling American Football League in Super Bowl III. And Jets quarterback Joe Namath — Broadway Joe, so known for his lavish, late-night lifestyle — boldly predicting victory for his decidedly underdog team, and then delivering a 16-7 win back on Jan. 12, 1969.
It remains one of pro football’s most memorable upsets and one that Steve Thompson, a Jets rookie defensive lineman and the pride of Lake Stevens, helped bring about.
“The Colts had rolled over everybody through that season and then through the playoffs, so we were given no chance,” he recalled. “And if we’d played them again, they might have beat us five out of six times. But Joe Namath, our quarterback, had a charismatic kind of leadership that seemed to inspire guys. So our confidence was way up and they were overconfident.
“What I remember mostly,” said Thompson, who played on special teams and as a backup defensive lineman, “is looking up at the clock when I was standing on the sideline late in the game. We were ahead and I couldn’t believe that we were actually going to win this thing.”
Thompson played five more seasons in the NFL, followed by one in the World Football League and another in the Canadian Football League before retiring and returning to Snohomish County. But the crowning highlight of his football career — a journey that began on the playgrounds of Lake Stevens, and later at Lake Stevens High School and the University of Washington — was that historic Super Bowl.
“I still wear a Super Bowl ring,” said the 67-year-old Thompson, “and the older you get, the more fun it is to talk about those days.”
Thompson, the head pastor at Victory Foursquare Church in Marysville, is one of 10 individuals in this year’s class of inductees to the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame. They will be honored at a Wednesday night banquet to be held at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Comcast Arena.
“This is a big honor,” Thompson said. After his football career ended, he and his wife, Starla, “kind of came back to our roots, pastoring here in Everett and Marysville for about 27 years. … We love the area, and it’s an honor to be recognized by the local area.”
Along with Thompson, other athletes being inducted this year are world-class distance runner Herm Atkins from Everett, UW football player Ron Gipson from Everett, UW and NBA basketball player Jack Nichols from Everett, U.S. Paralympian Tony Volpentest from Edmonds, and U.S. Olympian Sherron Walker from Everett.
Also being inducted are longtime Snohomish football coach Dick Armstrong, Cascade and Archbishop Murphy football coach Terry Ennis, and Darrington coach (multiple sports) Nancy Snyder.
The final individual inductee is current Seattle Storm president and CEO Karen Bryant from Edmonds.
Completing this year’s class are two state championship teams — the 1940 Everett boys basketball team and the 1977 Mountlake Terrace boys basketball team.
Nichols, Armstrong and Ennis are deceased, and will be represented at the banquet by family members. Volpentest lives in Arizona and is unable to attend, and also will be represented by a family member.
The other inductees are all expected to attend.
This year’s class joins 20 individuals and three teams previously inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“It’s a common-thread question every year: How does this year’s class compare to the others?” said Frank Foster, chairman of the 25-member Hall of Fame committee. “But every year there’s a standard response. Each year the classes are not only unique, they’re jaw-dropping in the accomplishments of the individuals and the teams.
“Each one of these inductees has their own story, and each of those stories is a powerful statement of individual will to succeed and to triumph,” he said.
Wednesday’s banquet begins with a social hour from 5-6:30 p.m., during which there will be a silent auction. At 5:30 p.m. there will be a ribbon cutting for the Hall of Fame display cases, which will later be relocated to Comcast Arena.
Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. with the program to start around 7:15 p.m.. The master of ceremonies is Everett radio personality Tom Lafferty, and the keynote speaker is former UW player and coach Jim Lambright, an Everett native.
There might be banquet tickets available to the public. To inquire, call 425-348-5802, ext. 12. Tickets are $55, and $20 for children under 12.
Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame 2012 inductees
Herm Atkins, Everett: An Olympic Trials qualifier in the 5,000 meters in 1976, and the marathon in 1980 and 1984, Atkins ran the fastest American marathon in 1979. In 1993 he led the Snohomish Track Club to the National Masters Cross Country 10K Championship.
Ron Gipson, Everett: A four-year letterman at the University of Washington and the starting fullback in his junior and senior years, Gipson helped the Huskies defeat Michigan in the 1978 Rose Bowl.
Jack Nichols, Everett: Nichols played three seasons at the University of Washington (1944, 1947-48), and in 1948 set the school’s single-season scoring record with 1,070 points and the single-game scoring record with 39 points vs. Idaho. He later played nine seasons in the NBA, and won a league championship with Boston in 1957.
Steve Thompson, Lake Stevens: Thompson played three varsity seasons at the University of Washington from 1965-67, and was an all-conference defensive end in 1966 and 1967. He was drafted by the New York Jets of the American Football League in 1968 and helped them win Super Bowl III in 1969.
Tony Volpentest, Edmonds: Born without hands or feet, Volpentest started running at Edmonds-Woodway High School with carbon-graphite feet bolted to his prosthetics. He went on to win gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters at the 1992 and 1996 Paralympics, including a world record of 11.36 seconds in the 100 in 1996.
Sherron Walker, Everett: A four-time high school state champion in the long jump, Walker still holds the state high school record of 21 feet, 3 inches, a mark that ranks sixth nationally. She was a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team.
Dick Armstrong, Snohomish: Armstrong, who coached at Snohomish High School from 1963 to 1994, had a career record of 279-88-5 (including stints at Sultan, Concrete and Camas high schools) that was at one time the Washington record for coaching victories. His Snohomish teams won state titles in 1976 and 1978, and won or shared 16 league titles.
Terry Ennis, Everett: In 36 seasons of high school coaching, Ennis had a 287-87 record and for a time held the state mark for football coaching victories. At Cascade High School his teams won 10 conference championships and the state title in 1991. At Archbishop Murphy High School he won state titles in 2002 and 2003.
Nancy Snyder, Darrington: An outstanding athlete at Cascade High School, Everett Community College and Eastern Washington State College, Snyder spent more than 30 years as a teacher and coach at Darrington Middle/High School, where she continues to coach. Her team won the state baseball championship in 1981.
Karen Bryant, Edmonds: Bryant was a top basketball player at Woodway High School, but achieved her greatest sporting success as an executive. She is the president and CEO of the NBA’s Seattle Storm, and her teams won league championships in 2004 and 2010.
1977 Mountlake Terrace High School boys basketball team: Under coach Merle Blevins, Mountlake Terrace finished with a 25-1 record and breezed to the state championship. Just three of the team’s 25 victories were by less than nine points.
1940 Everett High School boys basketball team: Everett won the 1940 state high school basketball championship, finishing the season with a 29-0 record. The Seagulls overpowered Oakville 64-19 in the state championship game.
Compiled by Rich Myhre