Police: NFL rings stolen

INDIAN LAND -- It took Pete Metzelaars 16 years and five trips to the Super Bowl to finally win that elusive championship ring.

But authorities believe it only took a burglar one trip inside the former NFL standout's Indian Land home to steal the Super Bowl ring.

The ring, along with four conference championship rings and several other pieces of valuable jewelry, were stolen from Metzelaars' home Tuesday, according to a Lancaster County Sheriff's Office report.

"The memories and stuff you can't replace is hard to lose," said Metzelaars, a former tight end for the Carolina Panthers. "But just the lack of feeling secure when you come home, that's the really disappointing part."

Lancaster County Sheriff's Office spokes-man Tom Holland said one or possibly more individuals broke into Metzelaars' home in Indian Land between 1 and 9 p.m. Tuesday while the home was empty.

According to a police incident report, the home was entered when someone pried open the back door. Power, cable and phone lines were disconnected, and the home was ransacked when Metzelaars' wife returned home at 9 p.m., according to the report.

Holland said the jewelry, including several women's gold pendants with team logos, was worn regularly by the Metzelaarses and stored in jewelry boxes in the master bedroom.

Investigators are compiling a list of all the items taken and people who recently visited the home. Authorities said they don't have any suspects but said Metzelaars' address was printed in the July 4 edition of a local newspaper and in another publication recently.

Metzelaars earned his Super Bowl ring earlier this year as an assistant coach for the NFL champion Indianapolis Colts.

The four American Football Conference championship rings were awarded to Metzelaars when he played with the Buffalo Bills in the early 1990s. All were taken from the home.

"I just hope somehow, someday they can be recovered," Metzelaars said. "Being a part of those teams and what they accomplished, the friendships, the relationships with all the guys on my team, that's how much it means to me. ... When I came to the Bills, they were 2-14 the previous year. We went to the Super Bowl four times. We didn't win, but that's still a memorable accomplishment."

If the rings, made of gold and diamonds, aren't recovered, Metzelaars said replicas may be created as replacements.

"But it wouldn't be the same," he said. "It wouldn't be the ones we earned for our hard work."

Metzelaars, a 47-year-old Michigan native, played 16 years in the NFL for Seattle, Buffalo, Carolina and Detroit between 1982 and 1997. He was a member of the Carolina Panthers' inaugural team in 1995.

His best season came in 1993 when he caught 68 passes for 609 yards and four touchdowns before the Bills lost to the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl. His 235 games played are the most by a tight end in NFL history. Metzelaars also has served as a coach at Charlotte Christian School and Wingate University.

Holland said anyone with information about the missing jewelry should call the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office at (803) 283-4136.

Adam O'Daniel • 329-4069