Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2019

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Ex-Patriot remembers XX

For New England Patriots fans, it remains one of the most embarrassing events in team history.

But valley resident Art Plunkett was a New England Patriot. For him, it was the greatest moment of his professional football career.

It took place in 1986 at Super Bowl XX, where Plunkett's Patriots, after shocking the football world by winning the American Football Conference, played the Chicago Bears for the National Football League championship.

The Patriots, with Plunkett at offensive tackle, suffered the then-worst beating in Super Bowl history, 46-10.

"We started the tradition of the AFC getting stomped," said Plunkett, a UNLV alum who now teaches business and coaches the offensive line at Las Vegas High.

Although he played for three teams during his eight-year NFL career, Plunkett will always consider himself a Patriot. Along with his wife, Jeri, and 11-year-old son, Richie, he will be watching Sunday when his old team takes on the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI.

"It's like a chance to avenge the 36-point drubbing we got against the Bears," he said. "I'm pretty excited to see them in there again.

"It's almost like d'ej'a vu."

This year's Super Bowl is at the Superdome in New Orleans, the same site as Plunkett's. And right around kickoff, chills surely will run up his spine as he recalls the overwhelming sensation of coming out of the tunnel.

"Just walking out, when the game's about to start, the cheerleaders are all lined up and the place is erupting. It's unreal," he said. "It's hard to believe you're even there."

Plunkett played 15 regular-season games as a backup for New England that year. But he entered the biggest game of his life in the second quarter, with the assignment of blocking Bears All-Pro defensive end Dan Hampton, and played the rest of the way. Unfortunately, that was because the Patriots were on their way to breaking several records for offensive futility.

They gave up seven sacks, including a safety. In the first half, they recorded minus-19 yards rushing and just one first down. For the game, they totalled 7 yards rushing. They had seven turnovers.

"The funny thing is, I've been taping all the games from that season, all the way up to the Super Bowl, off of Beta and onto VHS. I've been watching all those games," said Plunkett, who played at 6-foot-7, 262 pounds. "We had a good team. We had nine All-Pros, but nobody expected us to make it (to the Super Bowl).

"We had no respect, and it seems like the same thing for the Patriots this year."

In retrospect, Plunkett's Patriots were overrated as 9 1/2-point underdogs. This year, the Packers are favored by 14 points, the third-largest point spread in Super Bowl history.

Plunkett was asked if he'll bet on his former team, and if so, if he'll take the money line, which is paying around 4 to 1.

"I'll take the Patriots, but I'm taking the points," he said. "What, are you nuts?"

Plunkett's career ended in 1988, when he tore ligaments in his right knee for the second time in two seasons.

He permanently retired to the valley, his off-season home since graduating from UNLV in 1980, and got into the restaurant business. He opened Artie's Pizza in Green Valley in 1989, but sold it three years ago, right around the time his parents retired to Las Vegas from Salt Lake City.

After all those years, Plunkett proudly wears his AFC championship ring, even though some of his ex-teammates, including Hall of Famer and fellow tackle John Hannah, call it a "loser's ring."

"Only two teams make it to the Super Bowl every year," Plunkett said. "Many players never walk onto that field at all."