The epitome of cool in the 1960s, Joe Namath turns 80 years old today.
Broadway Joe, the man who provided the guarantee that the Jets would defeat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III is now 80.
Namath was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, was also a Pro Bowler and Second Team All-Pro in 1972, as well as a four-time AFL All-Star before the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, of which New York’s Super Bowl win helped play a part in making a reality.
Namath grew up in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, a blue-collar steel town outside Pittsburgh. At Beaver Falls High School, Namath stood out in baseball and football. He became a hometown hero thanks to his rocket arm.
After high school, Namath went to Alabama, where was the starting quarterback in all three of his varsity seasons for coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
In his junior year, Namath led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 1964. When asked about Namath’s talent, Bear Bryant said he was one of the best players he had ever coached.
In 1965, The St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL drafted Namath with the 12th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Meanwhile, the New York Jets of the AFL drafted him first overall in the AFL Draft.
After hearing both teams’ offers, Namath chose the AFL and signed with the Jets. The three-year, $427,000 contract had a $200,000 signing bonus and a Lincoln Continental in the fine print. It was the largest contract ever at the time.
During his time in the bright lights of New York, Joe Namath reached celebrity status. He was not just a superstar athlete. He was a rock star.
Inspired by his Sports Illustrated cover, Namath’s teammates nicknamed him Broadway Joe. The nickname stuck thanks to his flashy play and newsworthy off-field antics of partying and acting in the offseason.
Namath shattered the record books in 1967. He showed off his strong arm and threw for a record-breaking 4,007 yards and 26 touchdowns. He became the first quarterback to pass for over 4,000 yards and the only quarterback to do so in a 14-game season.
The highlight of Namath’s career came in Super Bowl III. The Jets were 19-point underdogs to the NFL champion Baltimore Colts.
After having to hear his team was going to lose for days, Broadway Joe guaranteed a win for the Jets at a press conference before the game.
Namath led the Jets to a 16-7 upset over the Colts. The Jets offense frustrated the Colts defense all game long. Namath was named Super Bowl MVP for his performance.
The Jets winning Super Bowl III is considered one of the greatest upsets in football history and Namath’s guarantee became legendary.
Namath was the NFL’s biggest superstar. It was inevitable that Broadway Joe would enter into the Movie and TV industry.
He starred in several movies, including C.C. and Company, The Last Rebel, and Avalanche Express. He had some success in television too.
Broadway Joe made appearances on hit shows like The Dean Martin Show, The Brady Bunch, The Waverly Wonders, The Love Boat, and The A-Team.
At 34, Namath was waived by the Jets and signed with the Los Angeles Rams. He was benched in Week 4 after throwing four interceptions against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Namath never played another down of football.
Photo courtsey of Jet X Graphic, Getty Images