Where Are They Now?
Jefferson Catering To A New Kind Of Crowd
By Scott Robertson
Roy Jefferson never was the kind of football player who would cater to anyone. His outspoken nature and close ties to the National Football League's Players Association killed that notion before it ever got started. Nowadays, though, catering and food service rank right behind golf on Jefferson's menu.
Jefferson was a standout wide receiver in the NFL from 1965-75, playing with the Steelers, Baltimore Colts and Washington Redskins. Now retired and living with wife Candie in Annandale, Va., a Washington, D.C., suburb, Jefferson operates All-Pro Caterers when he is not out on the links pursuing his passion for golf.
"I got into the catering business a few years ago," said Jefferson, who was drafted out of Utah on the second round by the Steelers in 1965. "A friend down here in the Washington area talked me into getting into the restaurant business. I had been working for a mortgage company, and around that time, a lot of mortgage companies were going out of business."
Jefferson began his food service career by opening three Roy Jefferson's Barbecue restaurants in the Washington area. The last of those closed in 1992, sending him into catering with All-Pro. He also has an association with Key Copy and Printing Co. of Centreville, Va.
"I was enjoying catering until I spent about a year and a half doing lunch twice a day for about 2,500 employees in the post office here," Jefferson said with a laugh. "That really wiped me out. My golf game really took a beating. I never felt like playing."
Jefferson is back on the course more often now, thanks to the fact that the post office brought in an on-site cafeteria for its employees. His golf game is sharpening, although it's not to the level he would like.
"I was about a 9-handicap two years ago," Jefferson said. "I would say that now, I'm about a 12. I'm getting closer to where I want to be with the game. I'm really working hard at it. I'm truly a fanatic about the game. I love the competition-I just love to play."
Jefferson's passion for golf was borne in Pittsburgh, when he joined a group called the Duffers, a group of Black Pittsburgh-area golfers. The Duffers still take on similar teams from Cleveland, Washington and Philadelphia. Jefferson used to return to Pittsburgh two or three times per year to play with the group, but has not been able to return here for about three years due to other commitments.
Jefferson enjoyed most of his time with the Steelers. He played for the team from 1965-69, but despite his obvious talent, was a casualty of Chuck Noll's makeover of the team. He played in the Pro Bowl in 1968, 1969 and 1971. In 1968 and 1969, he was the only NFL receiver to top 1,000 yards. His 67 catches in 1969 set a Steeler record and led the NFL.
In 11 NFL seasons, he caught 424 passes for 7,175 yards, an average of 16.9 yards per catch. He caught 50 touchdown passes. His Steelers career included five seasons in which he totaled 199 catches for 3,671 yards and 29 touchdowns. He made two Super Bowl appearances, catching eight passes for 104 yards in those games.
Jefferson says Noll and Dan Rooney, the current team president, did not want him with the Steelers because of his outspoken nature and involvement with the Players Association.
"I was considered a rebel," said Jefferson, who also handled placekicking duties at Utah and led his college team in scoring three straight years. "I was the team's player rep, and they thought I was not a good guy to keep around. I think they thought I had too much clout with the players."
Jefferson, while not bitter about his departure from the Steelers, still questions comments Rooney made at the time.
"Dan Rooney stated that they got rid of me because I wanted to be the focal point of the team, and that was not going to happen with guys like Terry Bradshaw and Joe Greene around," Jefferson said. "That was a low blow, in my opinion. Why would he say something like that? What you do on the field determines what your niche is in football-you can't demand to be the focal point. What I did was make my niche. I never understood why he would make a statement like that."
Jefferson's involvement with the Players Association and his outspoken nature seem, in comparison to today's brash and bold athletes, to be relatively mild.
"I did a lot of things in the community," said Jefferson, who was coordinator of the Right to Read Learning Center for Inner City Children in the Washington area. "I never was arrested or involved in any kind of illegal activity. I never got into the kind of trouble you hear about guys getting into today. But back then, athletes weren't supposed to speak out. We were supposed to listen. I was very outspoken, and that made me very unpopular with Chuck Noll."
Noll didn't allow Jefferson to bother him for long. He traded Jefferson to the Colts for Willie Richardson and a fourth round draft choice after the third preseason game in 1970. The trade followed perhaps his best Steelers season-67 catches for 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns. Ray May, a former Steelers linebacker, had been sent packing to the Colts during the offseason. Those two won a Super Bowl when the Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13, to win Super Bowl V.
"It was exciting," Jefferson said. "We had won one game with the Steelers in 1969, and here I was on a team that won the Super Bowl. We had not won more than five games with the Steelers in any year I was there. To go to the Super Bowl like that was great."
The euphoria did not last. Jefferson got into what he calls "a falling out" with Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom in the offseason following the Super Bowl. Jefferson asked to be traded and was sent packing again, this time to the Redskins. He appeared in the Super Bowl again two years later, but this time the Redskins fell to the Miami Dolphins, who completed their undefeated 1972 season with a 14-7 win in Super Bowl VII.
Jefferson still believes the Redskins could have won that day. Quarterback Billy Kilmer, subbing for the injured Sonny Jurgensen, had a tough day throwing the football, and the Dolphins were able to control the clock with their punishing running game.
"This is not to demean Billy Kilmer, who was great for us after Jurgensen got hurt, but I really believe that if Sonny had been able to play that day, it would have been no contest," Jefferson said. "Billy just did not have a great day throwing the ball. Miami challenged us to throw-they played to stop Larry Brown and our running game, and Charley Taylor and I were getting open on their deep zone.
(Miami defensive backs) Dick Anderson and Jake Scott were sitting inside, and Billy overthrew us a couple of times. We had Jerry Smith wide open in the end zone one time, and the pass hit the goalpost. It was just that kind of day. I really believe if we had played them the next day, we'd have eaten them alive."
Jefferson, who lived in Point Breeze during his Steelers days, said life in Pittsburgh was better than anywhere else he played.
"Pittsburgh was the town I enjoyed the most," he said. "The people there were better than anywhere else I've been. I mean, I knew everyone within a four-block radius of my house there. We entertained a lot-had a lot of family and friends over for picnics and things, and really got involved in the community.
"Winning is the greatest thing, though. I don't want to demean my time in Pittsburgh because we were not winning then. Even though we weren't winning, I had a lot of success there. Washington, because of the winning, was the best place I played. The fans are absolutely great here. But Pittsburgh was the best place to live-you can't live here in the Washington area the way we lived in Pittsburgh."