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Dick Jauron a hometown hero
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SWAMPSCOTT, Mass. -- He was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears. He played for eight seasons in the NFL and led the National Football Conference in punt-return average. He held a Yale rushing record for more than a quarter-century. But around here Dick Jauron is remembered for getting an "A" from the toughest son-of-a-buck who ever taught 11th-grade American history in this town.
Oh, yes, and he's remembered, too, for that play against the Clippers of Newburyport High in November 1967.
That's when Dickie Jauron, as he was known then, caught the ball with three seconds left in the first half and, conscious that he was landing on the 1-yard line rather than in the end zone, signaled for a time-out as he was falling to the turf. Drop into the Dunkin' Donuts in Vinnin Square and there's a good chance Frank DeFelice, one of his coaches, and a clutch of other locals like Lloyd Benson and Andy Rose, who played on that Big Blue team with him, are still talking about it. It happened, after all, only 47 years ago.
So it set the talk stirring at the Paradise Cafe across from the railroad station, and also over at the Swampscott Club, near where the Surf Theater used to stand, when word seeped out that Dick Jauron was coming home, and not just for a visit, but probably for good.
He wasn't running away; on the contrary, he's still a big deal in the NFL, where he's regarded as a gifted protege of Dick LeBeau, the fabled Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator, and where only two seasons ago Jauron was the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator himself.
No, the reason the car with Ohio plates sits in the driveway two doors from my mother's is that Jauron's wife is very ill. He's not saying this, or anything about it, but everyone knows it. Somehow you just know these things in towns like this.
"I didn't plan on retiring, and I don't know what will happen next," Jauron says, "but I know I couldn't work last year, and I know I can't work right now."
So if you're looking for heroes, consider a 64-year-old man whom The Associated Press named as its NFL Coach of the Year in 2001 but who still refers to his old high school basketball coach as "Mr. Lynch"; whom that coach, Dick Lynch, this month described as "the humblest person I've ever known"; whom Charlie Kimball, who taught that bear of a U.S. history class in 1968, still recalls as "the finest student-athlete I ever knew, the epitome of a son I'd like to have"; who just the other day told Dottie Winer, the English teacher, that his fondest memory of high school wasn't being on a sports team but being in the Drama Club; and who moved back home and put aside his career to care for his wife.
Our town had that kind of hero. Maybe yours did, too.
David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Post-Gazette (dshribman@post-gazette.com).