Fan at Super Bowl I, he has waited 24 years to play in one

LOFTON: A

January 22, 1991|By Ken Murray FOR EXTRA POINTS

The Super Bowl started 24 years ago in the Los Angeles Coliseum when the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs.

James Lofton was there, sitting in the upper rows of the Coliseum with his father, Emanuel. By the second half, they sneaked into better seats near the 30-yard line.

Next Sunday, Lofton, the 34-year-old receiver for the Buffalo Bills, turns from Super Bowl spectator to participant when he faces the New York Giants.

"Ask some of my teammates about it, and they would probably say I was 20 when I saw that first game," Lofton said.

Playing like a 20-year-old Sunday, Lofton caught five passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns during the Bills' 51-3 victory over the Raiders.

He thus becomes a sentimental star for a sentimental Super Bowl.

"It's really ironic," Lofton said. "I went to the first Super Bowl with my dad. He passed away this year. Now, the 25th game. I finally get a chance in it."

Also ironic about this Sunday in Rich Stadium was that more than a year ago the Raiders informed Lofton that he couldn't beat out their top three young receivers, Willie Gault, Mervyn Fernandez and Tim Brown. They released him, and the 33-year-old former speedster was looking for a job.

Sunday, those three "youngsters" contributed 7 fewer yards than Lofton and two fewer touchdowns.

"I don't know if the game meant a lot more with it being the Raiders and the fact that they released me," said Lofton, who caught 35 passes this season, averaging 20.3 yards a reception. "I'm just thankful I was able to come to a football team that had the capability of getting to a championship game."

THE CHALKBOARD

If the presence of New York Giants coach Bill Parcells and Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy in Super Bowl XXV means anything, it's probably that reputations don't count for much in -- the NFL.

While he coached in Kansas City, never getting over the .50 hump in six years, Levy was regarded as one of the league's most conservative minds.

Yet this year, with vastly different personnel, Levy's Bills own th NFL's flashiest and most feared offense. Buffalo's no-huddle attack will be the rage around the league next season.

Parcells, meanwhile, is another disciple of ball control, fiel position and defense. But the Giants coach is willing to gamble when necessary.

It was Parcells' willingness to try a fake punt on fourth down fro his own 46 late in Sunday's NFC championship game that helped the Giants reach the Super Bowl. Gary Reasons went 30 yards on the fake to set up a Matt Bahr field goal that cut the 49ers' lead to 13-12, and set up Bahr's last-minute heroics.

* CASHING IN: The Super Bowl winner gets $36,000 a man, and the loser takes home $18,000.

* JUMP START: The Bills have scored on their opening offensive possession in nine of the last 12 games.

* NEXT PLEASE: Raiders defensive coordinator Dave Adolph was considered in the running for the vacant Browns' coaching post -- until Sunday's 51-3 loss at Buffalo, anyway. Reportedly also under consideration is Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick, next on the no-huddle hot seat.

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