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John Schmitt is reunited with Super Bowl ring after 40 years

September 16, 2011 |  1:03 pm

  Photo: New York Jets helmets. Credit: Julio Cortez / Associated Press.

It's not the "Heart of the Ocean," the fictitious blue diamond that Kate Winslet threw into the ocean in "Titanic," but to former New York Jets center John Schmitt, the jewel that was recently discovered off the shores of Waikiki is of even more value.

A few years after winning the Super Bowl in 1969, Schmitt went on vacation to Hawaii. When he emerged from the water after five hours of surfing, Schmitt realized he had lost his prized Super Bowl ring.

He immediately jumped back into the water.

"I got a snorkel and some flippers and I went out and I dove until I was blue," Schmitt told Hawaii News Now. "I'm not kidding you. It must have been three hours I was out there looking. I couldn't find it anywhere. I was just exhausted. I virtually could not swim or flip my legs anymore and I just went in broken-hearted."

Schmitt, who played for the Jets from 1964 to 1973 before ending his career with the Green Bay Packers in 1974, had assumed the ring was lost for good.

But John Ernstberg, a Waikiki lifeguard, had found the ring in the water and stored it away in a box. When he and his wife passed away, their belongings went to Ernstberg's great-niece, Cindy Saffery, and her husband.

They had the ring examined and determined it was a real Super Bowl ring, now worth about $10,000. Instead of going after a profit, they contacted the Jets.

"It's a legacy," Samuel Saffery explained. "This is not something that you just can buy off the street. This is something that you earn, so for Mr. Schmitt he earned this ring. So by right it'll make me feel good to put it personally back into his hand."

When Schmitt heard the news, he offered to fly the couple from Hawaii to New York to thank them in person.

"That that ring was found is a bloody miracle," he said. "It really is a miracle, you know."

-- Melissa Rohlin

Photo credit: Julio Cortez / Associated Press