LONG ISLAND, New York (HawaiiNewsNow) - "I nearly drowned trying to find the gosh darn thing!"
That's what John Schmitt said about the Super Bowl ring that he'll soon be getting back, 40 years after he lost it during a surfing lesson a quarter mile off Waikiki Beach.
Schmitt received the ring after the Jets, led by Joe Namath, won the historic Super Bowl III in January, 1969.
"Oh my God," Schmitt said at his home on Long Island. "I died. My heart dropped to my feet. I raced in, got snorkel and fins and I went back out and I dove until I couldn't swim any more."
Schmitt didn't find the ring, but Waikiki lifeguard John Ernstberg did.
Ernstberg died in 1991; his wife passed away four years later. After her death, the ring was given to Ernstberg's great-niece, Cindy Saffery.
For Schmitt, the news that his ring was found came when his mood needed a lift.
"It's beyond beyond, because we had a tough week because of my best friend from the team dying, Sam DeLuca. And I was real depressed," Schmitt said.
Schmitt called Bob Parente, Jets vice president for programming and media production, to tell him about DeLuca's death.
Parente called Schmitt back the next day.
"'I have something that's gonna make you smile,'" Schmitt recalled DeLuca telling him. "I said, 'boy, it better be a lot.' He said, 'It is. Are you sitting down?' He said 'a girl named Cindy called us and said she has your Super Bowl ring.' And I said, 'Get out of here!'"
Schmitt said the ring doesn't have just sentimental value, it's also historic. "It's the most important Super Bowl ever played, at least as far as I'm concerned, and I think a lot of people would agree."
According to Schmitt, the ring would probably fetch anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000. He said the gold and newels alone are probably worth $12,000.
Schmitt replaced the lost ring, through insurance, years ago. He wore that one out, and got a third one. Schmitt has offered to fly Cindy Saffery and her husband to New York so he can get the original ring back. No plans have been finalized yet, but he's thinking about having the ring returned in a Jets halftime ceremony. Maybe then, he'll believe his luck.
"It's a miracle. There's no ifs, ands or buts."
RELATED VIDEO: RAW: Lost Super Bowl ring found