Woman finds 1978 football championship ring in her backyard

SWEENY, Texas (KTRK) -- Sometimes looks can be deceiving, as one woman in Sweeny learned when she discovered an old, dirty, rusty box.

Tucked away in mud and leaves, she found what one man has been missing for more than a decade. A piece of history, a prize you can only get once.

About a block away from Sweeny High School, Jennifer Walker can hear the sounds from today's high school football, all while sitting in her backyard.

But within her yard, beyond the shed, another connection to those Friday night lights.

"I saw this old rusted metal box," Jennifer Walker said. "It was kinda tucked under the mud."

The rusted tin box held history: a 40-year-old football state championship ring. Sealy High School's first state championship team in 1978.

"I mean, this is priceless to someone," Walker said.

Jennifer took her search to Facebook, looking for the very name engraved in the ring. She got in contact with Hank Laywell's wife.

"She said, 'Yes, this is Hank's state ring from 1978...'"

What Jennifer learned is the ring holds even more value than she thought.

Laywell's wife wrote to Jennifer, saying, "This was very sentimental. Hank's mom bought him the ring and she passed away four years ago. I cannot thank you enough, not too many people would do what you did."

Sealy High School 1978 state champ Hank Laywell lives 150 miles away in Thorndale, Texas.

"I'd already given up hope," he told Eyewitness News. "I figured one day, maybe someone would pawn it off or something at a pawn shop."

Instead, it ended up nearly 300 miles away from Hillsboro, where it was stolen out of his car 15 years ago.

"I lost my high school ring 17 years ago, and I know I would be beside myself if somebody found it," Jennifer said.

"I think it's just a sign that there is some good people in the world and we were lucky to find one," Hank said.

Perhaps one day, Jennifer might be so lucky to get hers back.

But for now, she'll hold on to this joy. Reconnecting one man to that once-in-a-lifetime prize.

"He has his ring back that his mom bought for him."

Follow Stefania Okolie on Instagram and Twitter.
Copyright © 2019 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.