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Jeter a great person, athlete

December 4, 2008
By RALPH COX, sports correspondent

Bob Jeter, who died on Nov. 20 at his home in Chicago of a heart attack, was a special product of Weirton.

He was part of that large group of athletes who grew up on or near Weir Avenue that made it to the professional level.

Jeter was a star on the great Green Bay Packer dynasty of the 1960s twice being named all-pro, which is the mountain top of the game of football, particularly back then, when there were fewer teams and you had to be special just to make an NFL roster.

He was a first-team 1954 all-state selection as a junior at Dunbar High School. The next football season, his senior year, Jeter was a third-team all-state honoree among the Class A schools in West Virginia.

He also was an all-Ohio Valley Athletic Conference selection that year and was named to the high school all-American team.

Jeter not only was a great athlete. He was a gentleman, a fine husband and a beloved father.

When I spoke to one of his sons by phone the day after Bob's death, Carlton Jeter said, "He was the best father anyone could have. He never missed any of either me or my brother's basketball games from the time we were in grade school."

Carlton and Robbie Jeter both became outstanding basketball players and played on the college level. Robbie currently is the head basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Bob Jeter, the Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Man of the Year in 1970, led the Red Riders to an 8-1-1 record in 1955, which was completely unexpected, since they had won just three games the year before.

Jeter opened his one-year Weir High career with an 83-yard punt return in the opening 14-7 win over Wellsburg. The Red Riders played Wellsburg twice that year and had to put on a three-play defensive goal line stand at the one-yard line as time was running out in the fourth quarter to preserve the win.

Back in those days, linemen weren't very big. The only 200-pounder in the starting lineup of either team was Red Rider right tackle Mel Gorsich, and he checked in right at 200 pounds.

There were about 10 players on the Weir High team who played the year before at Dunbar. Two others started that opening game against Wellsburg with Jeter - Aaron Chester, a 145-pounder at left end and John Douglas, who started at left guard weighing the same. Isaac Thompson took over at quarterback in that first game for an injured Ron Taflan and finished the season there.

The Red Riders won seven in a row that year before the 6-6 tie with Wheeling at Municipal Stadium (now Jimmy Carey Stadium). After hauling in a Thompson pass, Jeter was caught from behind at the Wheeling four-yard line in a 46-yard completion. A couple of plays later, Jeter bulled into the end zone to tie the score with seven seconds left on the clock.

Bob Rossell recalls that the Red Riders, under Hal "Doc" Daugherty, often used a single-wing offense. They lined up that way for the extra point try (it was one point for run or pass back then) with a trick play known as the "buck lateral" called. Not everything went as planned and, according to Rossell, Jeter, who was supposed to end up with the football, would have walked into the end zone for the win. However, before he could get his hands on the pigskin, a fumble occurred in the backfield.

Old newspaper articles say the snap went to fullback Lenny Brown and was mishandled from there. The paper also said the interior of the Weir High defensive line blocked Wheeling's extra point attempt from placement following its touchdown just before the half.

After walloping Parkersburg the next week, the Red Riders' dream of an undefeated season went awry when Steubenville Big Red, which up to that game - the last of the season for both teams - had won just three games, blasted Weir High 39-20. Going into the game, Weir High was one of just two undefeated teams in West Virginia.

Even in defeat Jeter starred, as Weirton Daily Times sports editor, Earle V. Wittpenn, wrote that Jeter, "by far, was the outstanding athlete in the game."

Jeter caught a 73-yard touchdown pass from Thompson just before halftime to get the Red Riders back into the game at 19-14, but the Riders couldn't recover from a couple of fumbles early in the game that put Big Red ahead.

The Red Riders won the OVAC championship in 1955.

Jeter also started on the Weir High 1955-56 basketball team along with Norm Orwasky, Jim McCracken and Ron Wilson, now a circuit court judge. That basketball team didn't have a remarkable season, but it did pull off the upset of unbeaten Triadelphia High in the regional tournament. However, the team lost the next game to Parkersburg, which went on to win the state title.

The fact that Big Red greats Calvin Jones, Eddie (Punkin) Vincent and Frank Gilliam were successful at the University of Iowa no doubt had an impact on Jeter accepting a scholarship to play for the Hawkeyes.

Of course, in those days freshmen didn't play varsity football at the college level as they do today so Jeter played for Iowa from 1957-60 and was named all-Big Ten running back. In 1958 and 1959 he was an all-American honorable mention selection.

In the Jan. 1, 1959, Rose Bowl game, which Iowa won 39-14 over the University of California, Jeter rushed for 194 yards on just nine carries. He set the Rose Bowl record with an 81-yard touchdown run and received Rose Bowl MVP honors.

In the 1960 NFL draft, Jeter was picked in the second round by Green Bay as a running back, but ended up playing the 1960 and 1961 football seasons in the Canadian Football Conference for Vancouver and Hamilton.

Then, in 1962, Jeter made the Green Bay taxi squad as a running back. The Packers were NFL champs that year.

He played for the Packers as a split end in 1963 and 1964.

Jeter's athleticism and versatility really showed in 1965 when he shifted to defensive back for the NFL champion Packers. He played in the first Super Bowl in 1967, a game Green Bay won 35-10 over Kansas City.

That year was probably Jeter's best in the NFL. He had eight interceptions and was named All Pro.

Green Bay repeated as Super Bowl champs in 1968 with a 33-14 victory over Oakland, and again Jeter earned all-pro honors. Jeter was traded to Chicago after the 1970 season and finished his career with the Bears from 1971-73.

In 1980, Jeter was inducted into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and was voted into the Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Hall of Fame in February 1986.

As an aside, Bob Jeter's sister, Eunice, was married to Bill West, another outstanding Weir High football player from 1963-65, who went on to play professional ball with the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos. Their son, Billy West, was an outstanding player at Buckeye North High School and later starred at Pitt, while their daughter, Erica, won the West Virginia long jump championship as a Weir High senior. She still holds the school girls' long jump record at the school.

After retiring from football, Bob Jeter settled in Chicago with his family. He worked in security at a food distribution center, and prior to retirement worked six years with youngsters as a supervisor with the Chicago Parks system.

In my mind, Bob Jeter was truly amazing.

One can only imagine the thoughts and feelings of going to a new school in your senior year after being separated because of skin color and then getting the ultimate professional accolade of all-pro after playing three positions at that level.

Goodbye to an outstanding athlete and person.

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