How to retire McMahon’s jersey? With headbands and shades

Cameron Smith
September 22, 2011

Jim McMahon is slowly losing his memory. The process through which a beloved quarterback who led the Super Bowl champion 1985 Bears, the BYU Cougars and Roy (Utah) High is slowly losing the capacity to remember the memories that he helped create for millions of fans are excruciating, but it also has had at least one positive side effect: They have sped up the rate at which he receives the recognition he deserves from all his former homes.

Legendary NFL quarterback Jim McMahon at Roy High in Utah
Legendary NFL quarterback Jim McMahon at Roy High in Utah

The latest to jump on that bandwagon was Roy High, which hosted McMahon during the school's football game against Box Elder (Utah) High. During his day on campus, McMahon had his number retired and, perhaps most touchingly, showed up for a game day prep rally on campus where most of the student body donned his trademark headband and shades.

The 1977 Roy graduate, who was wearing a pair of his best specs for the occasion, posed for photos with hordes of students. He reflected warmly on his time with the school. And he even took a pot shot at BYU, which has refused to induct him into the school's Hall of Fame because he failed to graduate, finishing nine credits short of his diploma.

"It's nice to come back to a place I actually did graduate from, because I'm still missing that college thing," McMahon told the Salt Lake Tribune.

"[Having a uniform retired is] a great honor. That's going to be up there forever, as long as the school's there."

Fittingly, one of McMahon's high school teammates -- former Roy receiver Freddie Fernandez -- is now at the helm of Roy's football program, trying to return it to the proud status in which it existed when they starred. According to the Deseret News, Roy hasn't had a winning football season in almost 20 years.

McMahon said that having Fernandez be a part of his ceremony made the day all the more special, though he emphasized that all the honors mean much more to his father than to him, as he told the Deseret News.

"It was very nice, man," McMahon said following Friday morning's assembly. "It was quite a tribute, and I'm happy for my Dad. My Dad is so excited that all of this is going on, and now if I can get in the BYU Hall of Fame. I've still got to graduate to get in that one. … It's not that big of a deal to me, but it means a lot to Pop."

With that in mind, McMahon is back at BYU, enrolled in a math class that would count toward the credits that are keeping him from officially graduating.

Whether or not he eventually graduates from BYU, McMahon knows that know he walked into this sunset on his own terms and still received the accolades often reserved only for those who play along with the rules proscribed them.

As history shows, that was never in the game plan for the man in the headband and shades.

"I had a great career," he told the Deseret News. "I enjoyed playing wherever I went; I did things my way, which not many people can say they did, I retired at 37 years old and I've been living the American dream ever since.

"I put my kids through college, so I've done pretty well for a little skinny white boy from California and Roy."

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