(Editor’s note: UIU Hall of Fame football player Mike Eischeid ’63 attended the NFL Oakland Raiders 50-Year Anniversary Reunion of the 1967 Super Bowl team in October 2017. The following story is republished with permission of Fayette County Newspapers. The article was written by former UIU faculty member and current Fayette County Newspapers sports editor Jerry Wadian.)
Both Fayette and West Union, Iowa, have a claim to Mike Eischeid, but so does the National Football League (NFL).
Eischeid, a graduate of Fayette High School and Upper Iowa University, currently lives in West Union. However, he also spent the best part of 11 years in the NFL, where he went from being cut four times to playing in three Super Bowls.
Last Thursday (October 19, 2017) Eischeid was back at the scene of his first NFL game, The Oakland Coliseum, for a 50-Year Anniversary reunion of the 1967 Super Bowl II Oakland team that lost to Green Bay, 33-14.
“It was a fantastic experience!” he exclaimed. “We had 23 teammates who were able to come and celebrate against our archrivals, the Kansas City Chiefs, and we won, 31-30, on a touchdown on the final play of the game.”
Among the 23 teammates returning was a then obscure assistant coach by the name of John Madden. Of course, Madden went on to coach Oakland to numerous conference titles and a 1976 Super Bowl victory. Later, Madden became a premier broadcaster, who lent his name and expertise to the most famous NFL video game of all time.
The reunion sparked a lot of memories for Eischeid, including a road to the NFL that wasn’t exactly a smooth one.
Born in Orange City, Mike followed his football-coaching father, ending up in Fayette where “Eb” Eischeid became head coach, athletic director, and a school legend.
“I started as a QB at UIU but was moved to defense,” the younger Eischeid recalled.
“When your dad moves you to defense, you know you’re probably not really a quarterback,” laughed the only Peacock to ever play in an NFL game.
Eischeid kicked for Upper Iowa, both as a punter and on field goals. After graduating in 1966, Mike hooked up with Norm Van Brocklin’s Minnesota Vikings, where he spent the first year on we now call the taxi squad. The next year, the punter broke a leg in the third exhibition game and was cut.
So, he taught at Wellsburg, Iowa, for a year.
“I still thought that I could play in the NFL, so I contacted several teams,” Eischeid said.
That’s when the northeast Iowan met another NFL legend, George “Pappa Bear” Halas, owner and coach of the Chicago Bears, who put Eischeid on the taxi squad. The following year, Bear kicker Bobby Joe Green had surgery during camp, and the Upper Iowa graduate was an effective replacement.
Halas wanted to keep Eischeid but had to cut him when Green recovered. However, the Raiders called and wanted Eischeid in Oakland.
That’s when Mike’s wife, Joy, said, “We’re going to Oakland.”
“It was a great move,” Eischeid admitted. “Oakland needed a kicker.”
However, he was quick to acknowledge, “You have to perform right away because in the NFL there is always somebody ready to take your place.”
Eischeid kicked some field goals for the “Raider Nation,” but served mainly as a punter for six seasons, including the memorable Super Bowl.
Eischeid’s first game for Oakland came in 1966 against Kansas City. Ironically, in 1971 he became a Chief.
“I pulled a leg muscle and had to go on injured reserve,” he explained.
In order to play again, an injured player has to go on the waiver wire, where any team might claim him. Chiefs NFL Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram of the “moving pocket” claimed Eischeid.
“I had some good games against Hank and his Chiefs. Hank said that he didn’t want me punting against him, so I became a Chief,” related Eischeid.
That relationship didn’t last long since KC already had a kicker. Stram, always a class act, asked Eischeid if there were someplace other than Oakland to which he’d like to be traded.
“I said Minnesota, and Hank arranged the trade,” the local kicker explained.
Thus, Eischeid became a Viking for the second time in his career, this time under another NFL Hall of Fame coach, Bud Grant. The former Peacock played for three more years, including two more Super Bowls, before hanging up the cleats.
When asked about playing in a Super Bowl, the retired NFL player commented, “It’s just a fantastic experience! After all, it is the ultimate experience for a player. It’s the most important game of all, and the pomp and circumstance that goes with the game makes it all the more of a fantastic experience.”
Over his years in the National Football League, Eischeid set numerous NFL and Super Bowl records, most of which have been broken over the past 45-50 years. However, the small-town boy from eastern Iowa is still co-holder of one Super Bowl record. He and Mike Horan of the Cardinals and Broncos hold the record for most career punts in Super Bowl history with 17 apiece. However, Horan needed four games to achieve the record, and Mike needed just three.
While he treasures all three Super Bowl appearances, the first one with Oakland stands out.
“It was the first time, and it was all new. Also, we had a very special group of guys; we were a very, very close group. That’s why it was so great to see some of them again,” he explained.
Eischeid had stayed in touch with a few of the former Raiders, like Roger Byrd. Mike and several former teammates went to Canton, Ohio, when Raiders owner Al Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. However, he and Joy hadn’t seen most of the players in 50 years.
“It was great, and the Raiders did a really nice job honoring all of us,” Mike noted.
At the reunion banquet, current owner Mark Davis, son of Oakland founder, owner and one-time coach Al Davis, spoke to every former player.
“I remember Mark as young runt running around the sidelines during training camp, “Mike laughed.
The former Raider punter recognized most of his former teammates.
“Of course, we were all older, had lost a little hair and put on a little weight – well, all of us except running back Clem Daniels, who looked like he could go onto the field the next night and gain a lot of yards,” Eischeid admitted.
Thursday afternoon (October 19)the returnees were driven to The Coliseum, where the parking lot was already packed and the tailgating parties in full swing.
Before that night’s game, the Super Bowl II vets were introduced. Among the speakers were QB Daryl “The Mad Bomber” Lamonica and Hall of Fame DB Willy Young.
Perhaps the most touching moment, though, came when Jim Otto spoke from his wheelchair. Otto was a tough-as-nails offensive center for Oakland for 15 years. Later, he had to have three knee operations, developed an infection and lost a leg.
“It was tremendously moving,” Eischeid said.
Eischeid got another surprise that night at the game when he spotted replay official Larry Nemmers. The former NFL referee of 25 years was a teammate of Mike’s at Upper Iowa and is also in the UIU Hall Of Fame
“We didn’t get a chance to talk,” Mike said with regret. “However, it was great just to see him there.
After all the reunion festivities were over, Eischeid reflected, “It was so wonderful to be around the guys again. The only really sad note was that so many of them have passed away over the years.
“As a sidebar, Joy got to talk with old friends nonstop for three whole days,” he added with a chuckle.
After strolling down memory lane, the former pro said, “I really have to thank all my former coaches, teammates, and especially Joy and my father, who supported me so much throughout my career.”
The area legend concluded, “You know, for having been cut four times, this country boy’s had a pretty good career. I’ve been very blessed.”