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Thursday, January 11, 2001
Namath was as good as his word

By Fred W. Kiger
Special to ESPN.com

Signature Game
Jan. 12, 1969 - Despite the New York Jets being 19-point underdogs to the Baltimore Colts, quarterback Joe Namath had visions of victory a few days before Super Bowl III in Miami. With a double scotch in his hand, he answered a heckler by saying, "We'll win. I guarantee it."

Broadway Joe was as good as his word. Guiding the Jets to a stunning 16-7 triumph, he legitimized the upstart AFL with an upset for the ages. He was voted the game's MVP after completing 17-of-28 passes for 206 yards, with George Sauer grabbing eight for 133 yards.

"Joe called the right play at the right time," said backup quarterback Babe Parilli. "He read their safety blitz, and he read their pass coverage. What else is there?"

In the locker room, Namath chided a press corps that had called him a loud-mouthed loser and expected him to eat his words. "I hope they all eat their pencils and pads," he says. "We won!"

Namath By the Numbers
Year Team G Att Comp Yards TD Int Rating
1965 NYJ 13 340 164 2220 18 15 68.8
1966 NYJ 14 471 232 3379 19 27 62.6
1967 NYJ 14 491 258 4007 26 28 73.8
1968 NYJ 14 380 187 3147 15 17 72.1
1969 NYJ 14 361 185 2734 19 17 74.3
1970 NYJ 5 179 90 1259 5 12 54.7
1971 NYJ 4 59 28 537 5 6 68.2
1972 NYJ 13 324 162 2816 19 21 72.5
1973 NYJ 6 133 68 966 5 6 68.7
1974 NYJ 14 361 191 2616 20 22 69.4
1975 NYJ 14 326 157 2286 15 28 51.0
1976 NYJ 11 230 114 1090 4 16 39.9
1977 LARm 4 107 50 606 3 5 54.5
Total

140 3762 1886 27,663 173 220 65.5

Odds 'n' Ends
  • When Joe was growing up in Beaver Falls, Pa., seven Namaths shared one bathroom. It was in the basement behind the coal burner. Joe had three older brothers and an adopted sister.

  • His parents separated when he was 12, and eventually divorced.

  • As a kid, Namath kept a picture of Johnny Unitas over his bed.

  • In grade school Namath was so short he couldn't see over his Pee Wee team's offensive line.

  • He didn't reach the varsity at Beaver Falls High School until the last game of his sophomore year in 1958. He didn't start until he was a senior, when he also punted.

  • With Namath having an injured leg, his coach asked if he could punt. Namath replied, "Don't worry. It won't be necessary to kick."

  • He led Beaver Falls to its first Western Pennsylvania championship in 35 years.

  • Namath was offered about 50 college scholarships.

  • Unhappy at first at Alabama, Namath considered leaving college and accepting $500,000 to sign with the Baltimore Orioles.

  • In the draft, Namath was not only selected in the first round by the New York Jets (with the No. 4 pick) in the AFL, but also was a first-round choice of the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals (No. 12).

  • The Jets were able to draft Namath after a trade of Jerry Rhome to Houston.

  • Three weeks after signing with the Jets for his record rookie contract of $427,000 for three years, Namath underwent surgery to repair cartilage and ligament damage in his right knee.

  • In his first season as a Jet, home attendance increased by more than 12,000 per game.

  • Sherman Plunkett, a 300-pound offensive tackle on the Jets, stared at a Sports Illustrated cover with Namath standing in front of Broadway and stamped him with his nickname, "Broadway Joe."

  • In the Jets' 1968 championship season Namath went six games without throwing a touchdown pass and yet still guided the team to five wins during that stretch.

  • After the Super Bowl upset of the Colts, Buck Buchanan, Emmitt Thomas and Willie Lanier of the Kansas City Chiefs waited at the hotel to shake hands with Namath and his teammates for the equalizing message sent to the NFL.

  • In the first meeting between the Jets and Giants, Namath threw three touchdown passes as the Jets won 37-14 in an exhibition game on Aug. 17, 1969.

  • In the first Monday Night Football game, Namath threw three interceptions as the Jets lost to the Cleveland Browns 31-21 on Sept. 21, 1970.

  • On Oct. 18, 1970 -- 21 months after their Super Bowl meeting -- Namath suffered a fractured right wrist and threw a career-worst six interceptions in the Jets' 29-22 loss to the Colts.

  • On Sept. 24, 1972, Namath and Unitas combined to pass for a record 872 yards. Namath threw for a career-high 496 yards and six touchdowns in the Jets' 44-34 victory over Baltimore.

  • In April 1977, Namath was granted his freedom when he was placed on waivers when a special trade attempt with the Los Angeles Rams was unsuccessful. Namath signed with the Rams on May 12.

  • In his NFL 13 seasons, Namath played on just four .500-plus teams.

  • Namath played a motorcyclist in the 1970 movie "C.C. and Company." Leonard Maltin's 1999 Movie & Video Guide gave the film 1 stars and said of Namath's performance, "Broadway Joe gets sacked in his first starring role."

  • Namath sat in for Johnny Carson as an occasional host for the "Tonight Show."

  • Namath was on President Richard Nixon's "enemies list." He was the only athlete on it.

  • As documented by the Congressional Record, Namath was paid tribute in the United States Senate by a former opponent, Senator Jack Kemp.

  • Man-about-town Namath, who once said, "I'd rather go to Vietnam than get married," wed Debra Mays in 1984.

  • The couple divorced in 1999. While Namath remains in Florida, his former wife and their two daughters, Jessica and Olivia, live in California.

  • In October 1985 the Jets retired his No. 12, the first jersey the organization retired.

  • Namath trailed only Michael Jordan as favorite endorser in a telephone poll of 3,000 Los Angeles Business Section customers in 1994.

  • The site of Namath's controversial club Bachelor's III in Manhattan has literally gone to the dogs. It is now home to American Kennels, a full-service pet store.