Will Stewart “Smokey” Stover’s Grey Cup and Super Bowl year ever be repeated?

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

There’s an exclusive club of players who have played in both a Grey Cup and a Super Bowl and an even smaller group of those who have won both, but what’s yet more exclusive is the club of those who have played in both in the same calendar year. Research suggests the only man ever to do so is Stewart “Smokey” Stover, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs (then of the American Football League, which was just starting to merge with the NFL) in their 35-10 Super Bowl I loss to the Green Bay Packers in January 1967 (some cool Life photos of it can be seen here), then headed north to the CFL and won a Grey Cup with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It’s a remarkable achievement, made even more remarkable by Stover’s story.

You see, Stover was never seen as the most likely type to have a long professional football career. He went to military school in Oklahoma, then was turned down by University of Tulsa coach Bobby Dodds, so he went off to play at Murray State and the University of Lousiana-Monroe. He recorded a stellar career at those schools (and is a member of both schools’ athletic halls of fame), but was still seen as an underdog in his attempt to join the AFL’s Dallas Texans in 1960. He was one of 129 men trying out for the team, and only made it thanks to a little subterfuge. Here’s what he told Jimmie Tramel of the Tulsa World about how he got into the AFL:

Stover said he was among 129 men who showed up at a tryout when the Dallas Texans launched an AFL franchise in 1960. He smartly moved from fullback (too much competition) to linebacker and was among 17 participants invited to training camp in Roswell, N.M.

"It was so damn hot out there," Stover said. "It was unreal. And when it got down to making the team, I was so skinny because they had run me to death."

Stover knew coaches would never keep a 188-pound linebacker, so he resorted to trickery.

Before a scheduled weigh-in, he took two 10-pound weights and wrapped one under each arm with Ace bandages. Then he put on an oversized T-shirt so coaches would be less likely to notice unusual lumps - and he tipped the scales at 208.

After the season, Stover confessed to the coach who supervised the weigh-in.

"And he started dying laughing because he and (head coach Hank) Stram had a knock-down, drag-out (argument) over me," Stover said. "Stram said 'the kid, he can't weigh 208. He's a bag of bones.' (And the assistant coach) said, 'hell, I weighed him. I know what he weighs.' But I think that was the turning point. I ended up being the starting linebacker."

Stover went on to an impressive AFL career with the Texans (who became the Chiefs), winning AFL titles in 1962 and 1966. He contributed both on defence and on special teams. In that 1967 Super Bowl against the heavily-favoured Green Bay Packers, champions of the older and more established NFL, he and the Chiefs hung in there at first and only trailed 14-10 at the half, but Green Bay pulled away down the stretch. That didn’t end Stover’s football career, though. Following the season, Stram advised Stover to get in touch with one of his contacts in the CFL (possibly then-Hamilton GM Jake Gaudaur or coach Ralph Sazio), and Stover wound up becoming an important piece for the famed 1967 Tiger-Cats’ defence, which didn’t allow a touchdown in the final six regular-season games of that year or in the playoffs, cruising to a 24-1 Grey Cup win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Will we ever see Stover’s feat of playing in a Super Bowl and a Grey Cup in the same year replicated? Well, it’s certainly possible. For all the stars in the Super Bowl, there are also always some lesser-known players who serve mostly on special teams or as depth pieces at receiver or defensive back, and some of them are cut after the game. Even Super Bowl heroics themselves don’t necessarily mean you’ll have a long NFL career afterwards; just look at Giants’ “Helmet Catch” star David Tyree, who never again caught an NFL regular-season pass (although he did briefly play with Baltimore). There's a substantial amount of roster turnover in the NFL every year, and if someone on a Super Bowl roster isn't able to stick with their team or find another NFL landing spot, the CFL's a logical destination. Thus, we could easily see this happen again. It doesn't seem to have occurred since then thus far, though, and that just adds to the uniqueness of Stover's story.

Thanks to Terry Ott for the heads-up on Stover.