SAN DIEGO -- If he had eyes in the back of his head, Jack Squirek might be here right now.

But then, if Joe Theismann had eyes in the back of his head, we might never have met Jack Squirek.

His football life was marked by two plays. During the 1984 Super Bowl, he stepped in front of a Theismann screen pass and stepped into the end zone. The touchdown gave his team a 21-3 lead at halftime. His Los Angeles Raiders teammates mobbed him. He had gone from zone coverage to the cover of Sports Illustrated. They gave him the key to his home city. They gave him a parade. He was embarrassed.

In an exhibition game a year and a half later, he was covering a running back. His eyes were locked into the running back's belly. So he never saw the crack-back block coming.

He took a blow to the face. He thought all his teeth were in the grass. He touched his mouth and felt the blood. But he couldn't feel his jaw. He was embarrassed.

So that was it. He never played linebacker again. Oh, he tried playing linebacker, but his eyes wandered too much. He kept waiting for another crack-back block to come, and -- in the meantime -- his teammates were tackling the ballcarrier.

"I was never the same," Squirek said.

Jack Squirek finally quit football July 27. Actually, he quit July 26. In broad daylight -- after an early-morning workout -- he hopped a cab to the San Diego airport and flew home to Valley View, Ohio.

The San Diego Chargers were Squirek's third team in two years. He was the Raiders' last cut in 1986, and then he quit the Miami Dolphins a few months later.

All because of his jaw. While lifting weights, he would clamp down on his teeth and his head would hurt. He would hit a running back and his head would hurt again. Naturally, he became scared and played with caution. Good linebackers have never heard of that word -- caution.

Squirek gets embarrassed at three things: fame, shame and feeling lame. In a nutshell, that is what happened. The Super Bowl brought fame, the injury brought shame and the aftereffects left him lame.

Steve Ortmayer, the Chargers' new director of football operations who used to be with the Raiders, asked him -- as a friend -- to come to San Diego. Squirek tried, but couldn't go through with it.

"I could have hung in there and tried, but I wasn't 100 percent," Squirek said. "I just felt like I was playing tentative. . . . The last two years, I've been feeling like this, but I hung in there. Now . . . listen, I'm not happy just getting by. I want to excel."

The Chargers say that he probably would have made the team.

That wasn't enough.

"Listen, it was a big decision," Squirek said.

He made this one on his own, not with any help from his father, Jack Squirek Sr., or from Ortmayer. That is why he left camp when nobody was looking.

"I knew Steve Ortmayer would probably talk me into staying, so I just walked out," Squirek said. "This way, I wouldn't cause commotion. I'd do what I wanted to do, and no one would talk me into anything. It was just my way of doing things."

At home, his father was mad. Not so much at his son, but because of the circumstances. After the jaw injury, Squirek tried playing seven weeks later.

"He came back too soon," the elder Squirek said. "{The Raiders} rushed him into playing. He could feel that bone moving when he made tackles. After that, he started getting headaches."

The elder Squirek thinks that maybe his son ought to sue the Raiders. Doesn't everybody?

"Ah, you know how parents are," Jack Jr. said.

"Well, it hurts when someone's such a great athlete, and it gets wasted," Jack Sr. said.

But was it really all a waste? Jack Jr. doesn't much like talking about the touchdown he scored, but he reminisced because he was asked to.

"It's part of history, you know," he said. "I guess that's good, but I guess that's bad, too. See, I always wanted to be remembered as a good, consistent player.

"Oh, I don't know. It was fun. It happened so fast, I can't recall if I was keying in on Joe Washington {for whom the pass was intended}. All I remember is being in the end zone and having all the people around me. And I remember feeling numb."

The way his jaw feels sometimes.