Namath, Joe (1943–)

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Joe Namath (1943–)

In an era when star athletes were supposed to be idealized, clean-living role models for fans young and old, Joseph William Namath was a startling exception. After starring at the University of Alabama, Namath (often nicknamed Joe Willie) became quarterback of the New York Jets, of the upstart American Football League (AFL), signing a then-record $427,000 contract in 1964.

It was for good reason that Namath was nicknamed "Broadway Joe": he earned as many headlines for his bachelor-pad, party-boy lifestyle as for his exploits on the field. He gained everlasting fame, however, when he boldly—and accurately—predicted that his AFL-champion Jets would beat the highly favored Baltimore Colts, of the more established National Football League (NFL; see entry under 1920s—Sports and Games in volume 2), in Super Bowl (see entry under 1960s—Sports and Games in volume 4) III in 1969. The Jets' 16-7 victory not only proved to the NFL that its AFL baby brothers were fast maturing—the two leagues ended up merging soon afterwards—but affirmed that Namath could back up his boasting with on-field heroics.

Namath had a stellar career with the Jets from 1965 to 1976, and retired after he spent the 1977 season with the Los Angeles Rams. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

—Rob Edelman

For More Information

"Broadway Joe." (accessed March 19, 2002).

Namath, Joe. Football for Young Players and Parents. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986.

Sanford, William R. Joe Namath. New York: Crestwood House, 1993.