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the first quarterback to pass for more than 4,000 yards in one season
Joseph William Namath was born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, on May 31, 1943. An all-round athlete in high school, Joe excelled in basketball, baseball, and football -- leading the football team to an undefeated season in his senior year. Upon graduation in 1960, Namath received offers from six Major League Baseball teams, in addition to numerous offers from college football programs. He initially decided upon the University of Maryland's football program, but was rejected because of his low college-board scores. He then accepted a scholarship to play for Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama. On January 1, 1963, he led Alabama to a 17-0 Orange Bowl victory over the University of Oklahoma. A knee injury sidelined him in 1964, and he was almost unable to play in the 1965 Orange Bowl, which Alabama lost to the University of Texas.
Namath as a member of the Crimson
Drafted by both the AFL's New York Jets and the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals in 1965, Namath ultimately signed a $427,000 contract with the Jets. Twenty-three days after signing, Namath underwent surgery to repair cartilage and ligaments in his right knee. He recovered from the surgery well enough to make his first appearance as a professional player in the second quarter of the second game of the season, on September 18, against the Kansas City Chiefs. He made his first start the very next week, on September 26, against the Buffalo Bills. He went on to win the AFL Rookie of the Year award.
In 1967, Namath became the first quarterback to pass for more than 4,000 yards in one season (a total of 4,007). He also led the league in average gain per pass attempt (8.2 yards), passing attempts, and completions. In 1968, he capped off an AFL Player of the Year and All-Pro selection season with an MVP performance in Super Bowl III, in which his 206-yard passing production led the Jets to a 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts. Namath's performance during the 1968 season earned him Pro Player of the Year honors, as well as the George Halas Award as the most courageous professional player.
On June 6, 1969, Namath announced his retirement from professional football due to a dispute with the NFL over his ownership of a Manhattan bar. On July 18, he announced that he had sold the bar and was coming back out of retirement.
On October 18, 1970, during a game against the Baltimore Colts, Namath's right wrist was fractured, putting him out of action for the remainder of the season. While off the football field, Namath kept busy by appearing in a few films -- C.C. and Company, The Last Rebel, and Norwood -- earning him the nickname "Broadway Joe."
In 1975, Namath turned down a multi-million dollar offer to play in the newly-founded World Football League, and signed a two-year contract with the Jets. Released by the Jets in 1977, he was signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Rams, but retired at the end of the season to pursue a broadcasting career.
Despite being plagued with knee injuries through much of his career, Namath completed 1,886 passes for 27,663 yards and 173 touchdowns in 12 seasons with the Jets, plus his final try with the Los Angeles Rams in 1977.
After leaving football, Namath acted in several movies and starred in a brief 1978 television series, The Waverly Wonders. He also made guest appearances in several television shows, including The Brady Bunch, The Flip Wilson Show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, the Dean Martin Show, and The Simpsons. He was also used as a color analyst on broadcasts of NFL games for a while, but never seemed particularly comfortable in the role and was often seen as too critical of players. He has subsequently spent most of his time operating "Broadway Joe" bars in New York City and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and appearing as a booster for golf tournaments and various charities.
Honors and Awards
AFL All-Time Team, 1969
Robinson Library >> Recreation >> Football >> Biography
This page was last updated on November 01, 2017.