Joe Namath

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Joe Namath
Black and white publicity still of Namath, in pads and jersey with no helmet, holding football over his shoulder as if to throw it (1965).
Namath in 1965, as a rookie with the Jets
No. 12
Position: Quarterback
Personal information
Date of birth: (1943-05-31) May 31, 1943 (age 73)
Place of birth: Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight: 201 lb (91 kg)
Career information
High school: Beaver Falls (PA)
College: Alabama
NFL Draft: 1965 / Round: 1 / Pick: 12
AFL draft: 1965 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career professional statistics
Pass attempts: 3,762
Pass completions: 1,886
Percentage: 50.1
TDINT: 173–220
Passing yards: 27,663
Passer rating: 65.5
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Joseph William Namath (/ˈnmθ/; born May 31, 1943), nicknamed Broadway Joe,[1] is a former American football quarterback and actor. He played college football for the University of Alabama under coach Paul "Bear" Bryant from 1962 to 1964, and professional football in the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL) during the 1960s and 1970s. Namath was an AFL icon and played for that league's New York Jets for most of his professional football career. He finished his career with the NFL's Los Angeles Rams. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985.

Namath retired after playing in 143 career games (including playoff games) with 68 wins, 71 losses, and four ties. In his 132 career starts, he was 64–64–4, and he was 4–7 coming off the bench in relief. In his career, he threw 173 touchdowns and 220 interceptions, and completed 1,886 passes for 27,663 yards.[2] During his 13 years in the AFL and NFL, he played for three division champions (the 1968 and 1969 AFL East Champion Jets and the 1977 NFC West Champion Rams) and earned one league championship (1968 AFL Championship), and one Super Bowl victory (Super Bowl III).

In 1999, he was ranked number 96 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. He was the only player on the list to have spent a majority of his career with the Jets. In his 1975 autobiography, Alabama head coach Bryant called Namath the most natural athlete he had ever coached.

Namath is known for boldly guaranteeing a Jets' victory over Don Shula's NFL Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III (1969), and then making good on his prediction with a 16–7 upset win for the Jets.

Early life[edit]

Gwynne Gilford and Namath on The Waverly Wonders in 1978

Namath is the son of Rose (née Juhász) and János "John" Andrew Namath, a steelworker.[3][4] His parents were of Hungarian descent, and his Hungarian-born grandfather, András "Andrew" Német, known as "A.J." to his family and friends, came to Ellis Island and worked in the coal and steel industries of the greater Pittsburgh area. While growing up, Namath was close to both of his parents, who were divorced. Following his parents' split, he lived with his mother. He was the youngest of four sons, with an adopted sister.[5]

Born and raised in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Pittsburgh, Namath grew up in its Lower End neighborhood.[6] He was a standout quarterback in football, guard in basketball, and outfielder in baseball at Beaver Falls High School. In an age when dunks were uncommon in high school basketball, Namath regularly dunked in games. Coached by Larry Bruno at Beaver Falls, Namath's football team won the WPIAL Class AA championship with a 9–0 record in 1960.[7] Coach Bruno later was his presenter to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.[8]

Upon graduation from high school in 1961, he received offers from several Major League Baseball teams, including the Yankees, Mets, Indians, Reds, Pirates, and Phillies,[9] but football prevailed. Namath has told interviewers that he wanted to sign with the Pirates and play baseball like his idol, Roberto Clemente, but elected to play football because his mother wanted him to get a college education.[10] Namath did not graduate until 2007, when he returned to college and finished a 30-hour external program bachelor of arts degree in interdisciplinary studies at the University of Alabama.[11]

Namath had many offers from Division I college football programs, including Penn State, Ohio State, Alabama, and Notre Dame, but initially decided upon the University of Maryland after being heavily recruited by Maryland assistant Roland Arrigoni. He was rejected by Maryland because his college-board scores were just below the school's requirements. After ample recruiting by Bryant, Namath accepted a full scholarship there. Bryant stated his decision to recruit Namath was "the best coaching decision I ever made."[citation needed]

College football career[edit]

Between 1962 and 1964, Namath played for the Alabama Crimson Tide program under Bryant and his offensive coordinator Howard Schnellenberger. A year after being suspended for the final two games of the season,[12] Namath led the Tide to a national championship in 1964. During his time at Alabama, Namath led the team to a 29–4 record over three seasons.

Bryant called Namath "the greatest athlete I ever coached".[13] When Namath was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, he broke down during his induction speech upon mentioning Bryant, who died from a heart attack in 1983. Namath did not receive his college degree until 2007, having left early to pursue his professional career.[14]

Namath's time at Alabama was a culture shock for him, as he had grown up in a neighborhood in Pennsylvania that was predominantly black. (He was the only white starter on his high school basketball team.)[5] He attended college at the height of the civil rights movement (1955–1968) in the Southern United States.


Season Passing Rushing
Comp Att Yards Comp% TD INT Carries Yards
1962 76 146 1192 52.1 13 8 70 321
1963 63 128 765 49.2 7 7 76 201
1964 64 100 756 64.0 5 4 44 133
Career total 203 374 2713 54.3 25 19 190 655

Professional football career[edit]

Joe Theismann (left) and Namath (right) in 2003, at the NFL Kickoff Live concert

Despite suffering a nagging knee injury in the fourth game of his senior year at Alabama, Namath limped through the undefeated regular season to the Orange Bowl. He was a first-round draft selection by both the NFL and the upstart AFL. The two competing leagues were at the height of their bidding war, and held their respective drafts on the same day: November 28, 1964. The cartilage damage to Namath's right knee later designated him class 4-F for the military draft, a deferment from service during the Vietnam War.[15][16][17]

The St. Louis Cardinals selected Namath 12th overall in the NFL draft, while the Jets selected him with the first overall pick of the AFL draft.[18] The day after the Orange Bowl, Namath elected to sign with the Jets, which were under the direction of owner Sonny Werblin, for a salary of US$427,000 over three years (a pro football record at the time)[5][19][20] and never put on a Cardinals uniform. Offensive tackle Sherman Plunkett came up with the nickname "Broadway Joe" in 1965,[5] following Namath's appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated in July.[21]

As a rookie in 1965, Namath split time with Mike Taliaferro,[15] as the Jets were winless in their first six games. They won five of the last eight and Namath was named the AFL Rookie of the year.[22] He became the first professional quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards in a season (1967) when he threw for 4,007 yards in a 14-game season, a record broken by Dan Fouts in 1979 (4,082) in a 16-game season.[23] He was a four-time AFL All-Star, in 1965, 1967, 1968, and 1969, although he was plagued with knee injuries through much of his career and underwent four pioneering knee operations by Dr. James A. Nicholas. On some occasions, Namath had to have his knee drained at halftime so he could finish a game. Later in life, long after he left football, he had to have knee replacement surgery on both legs.

In the 1968 AFL title game, Namath threw three touchdown passes to lead New York to a 27–23 win over the defending AFL champion Oakland Raiders. His performance in the 1968 season earned him the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year. He was an AFC-NFC Pro Bowler in 1972. Besides having the Hall of Fame distinction, he is a member of the Jets' all-time team and the American Football League All-Time Team.

Super Bowl III[edit]

The high point of Namath's career was his performance in the Jets' 16–7 win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in January 1969, before the AFL–NFL merger. The first two games had resulted in blowout victories for the NFL champion Green Bay Packers, and sports writers from NFL cities insisted the AFL would take several more years to be truly competitive with the NFL. The 1968 Colts were touted as "the greatest football team in history", and former NFL star and Atlanta Falcons head coach Norm Van Brocklin ridiculed the AFL before the game, saying "This will be Namath's first professional football game."

Three days before the game, tired of addressing the issue in the press, Namath responded to a heckler in Miami with the line: "We're going to win the game. I guarantee it."

In the game, Namath backed up his boast. The Colts' vaunted defense was unable to contain the Jets' running or passing game, while the ineffective offense gave up four interceptions to the Jets. Namath was the game's MVP, completing eight passes to George Sauer alone, for 133 yards. The win made him the first quarterback to start and win a national championship game in college, to start and win a major professional league championship, and to start and win a Super Bowl. His "guarantee" was initially ignored or ridiculed when made, but it became legendary after the Jets' upset of the Colts.[24]

Namath acquired legendary status for AFL fans as the symbol of their league's legitimacy. When he was asked by reporters after the game whether the Colts' defense was the "toughest he had ever faced", Namath responded, "That would be the Buffalo Bills' defense." The AFL-worst Bills had intercepted Namath five times, three for touchdowns, in their only win in 1968 in late September.

Bachelors III[edit]

After the season, Namath opened a popular Upper East Side bar called Bachelors III, which became associated with criminals. To protect the league's reputation, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle ordered Namath to divest himself of his interest in the bar. Namath refused, retiring from football during a teary news conference, but eventually agreed to divest his interest, and reported to the Jets.[25]

Namath again threatened to retire before the 1970 and 1971 seasons; New York stated in 1971 that "his retirement act had become shallow and predictable". The magazine wrote that Namath did not want to attend training camp because of the risk of injury, but could not afford to retire permanently because of poor investments.[25].

Monday Night Football's inaugural game[edit]

The head of ABC's televised sports, Roone Arledge, made sure that Monday Night Football's inaugural game (September 21, 1970) would feature Namath and the New York Jets in a game against the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland Municipal Stadium. A record crowd of 85,703 and a huge television audience (but not shown in Cleveland, due to blackout rules which prevented games from being shown near the home stadium) watched the Jets set a team record for penalties and lose on a late Namath interception.


After not missing a single game because of injury in his first five years in the league, Namath played in just 28 of 58 possible games because of various injuries between 1970 and 1973 as the Jets struggled with records of 4–10, 6–8, 7–7, and 4–10. His most memorable moment in those four seasons came on September 24, 1972, in Baltimore, when his boyhood idol Johnny Unitas and he combined for 872 passing yards. Namath bombed the Colts for 496 yards and six touchdowns in a 44–34 victory, New York's first victory over Baltimore since Super Bowl III. In that same game, Unitas threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns. This game is considered by many NFL experts to be the finest display of passing in a single game in league history.[26]

The Chicago Winds of the World Football League famously made a large overture to Namath prior to the start of the 1975 season in an effort to get Namath to sign with the team. The Winds designed their uniforms identically to that of the Jets and offered Namath $600,000 a year for three years, $100,000 for the next 17, a $500,000 signing bonus, and the eventual arrangement for Namath to revive the WFL's New York franchise as the new team's owner. The WFL's television provider, TVS Television Network, insisted on the Winds succeeding in signing Namath for the network to continue television broadcasts; Namath, in turn, requested a cut of the league's television revenue. The league refused, and Namath instead returned to the Jets. The Winds' failure to sign Namath made them look foolish. Not only had they all but promised that Namath was coming to Chicago, but they also had changed their colors to a green-and-white scheme mirroring that of the Jets. The Winds folded five weeks into the 1975 WFL season. In part due to being without a national television contract, the WFL collapsed altogether a month later.

Los Angeles Rams[edit]

In the twilight of his career, Namath was waived by the Jets to facilitate his move to the Los Angeles Rams when a trade could not be worked out. He was signed by the Rams on May 12, 1977. Namath hoped to revitalize his career, but by this point, his effectiveness as a quarterback was greatly reduced by his knee injuries, a bad hamstring, and the general ravages of a long period of time playing professional football. After playing well in a 2–1 start, Namath took a beating on a cold, windy, and rainy Monday night game in a one-point loss at the Chicago Bears, throwing four interceptions, with another being nullified by a penalty,[27] and he was benched for the rest of the season; at the conclusion of which Namath retired.

Movie and television career[edit]

Flip Wilson and Namath in 1972 on The Flip Wilson Show

Namath went on to a minor career as an actor in several movies, including C.C. and Company with Ann-Margret and William Smith in 1970, and he starred in a brief 1978 television series, The Waverly Wonders. He guest-starred on many television shows, including The Love Boat, Married... with Children, Here's Lucy, The Brady Bunch, The Flip Wilson Show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, The Dean Martin Show, The Simpsons, The A-Team, ALF, and The John Larroquette Show.

Namath was guest host on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson several times, as well as hosting his own show, the 1969 cult classic The Joe Namath Show (co-hosted by Dick Schaap) with its eclectic guest pairings and open-bar attitude. He appeared as T.J. on The A-Team, in which his character was punched by Mr. T and verbally threatened by former football star Jim Brown in one episode ("Quarterback Sneak")[28] during season five of the series.

He also served as a color commentator on broadcasts of NFL games for a while, including the 1985 season of Monday Night Football, but never seemed to be particularly comfortable in this role and was accused of being over-critical of then current players.

Namath also auditioned to host the 1988 revival of the classic game show Family Feud for CBS, but that role ultimately went to Ray Combs.

He currently hosts The Competitive Edge,[29] which, according to the show's publicist, is "an exciting business show designed to utilize his standing as a colorful, American icon to interview business leaders from all over the world, in a wide range of industries. Namath explores the characteristics and strategies that these business owners possess and looks at what gives them the Competitive Edge in their industry." The show is co-hosted by Kristy Villa.

Known as "Broadway Joe", he made his only appearance on Broadway as a cast replacement in a revival of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. He has also appeared in summerstock productions of Damn Yankees, Fiddler on the Roof, and Lil' Abner.

In September 2012, Namath was honored by the Ride of Fame and a double-decker tour bus was dedicated to him in New York City.[30]

Namath also appeared as himself in the 2013 sports film Underdogs and the 2015 comedy film The Wedding Ringer.

Personal life[edit]

While taking a voice class in 1983, Namath met Deborah Mays, an aspiring actress. He was 41, while she was 22, and they married in 1984 as Namath said, "She caught my last pass." The couple had two children, Jessica in 1986 and Olivia in 1991, and the longtime bachelor became a family man.[31] Namath and his wife were divorced in 2000.[31] After the divorce, the girls lived in Florida with Namath.[32] In May 2007, Olivia gave birth to a daughter, Natalia, his first grandchild.[32]

On December 20, 2003, Namath gained new notoriety, apparently after partaking of too much celebratory champagne during the Jets' announcement of their all-time team. During live ESPN coverage of the Jets' game, Namath was asked about Chad Pennington and his thoughts on the struggles of that year's squad. Namath expressed confidence in Pennington, and then stated to the interviewer, Suzy Kolber, "I want to kiss you. I couldn't care less about the team strugg-a-ling."[33] He later apologized. Several weeks later, he publicly admitted to an alcohol problem and entered into an outpatient alcoholism treatment program on January 12, 2004, the 35th anniversary of Super Bowl III. Namath chronicled the episode, including his battle with alcoholism in his book, Namath.[34]


In November 2006, the biography Namath by Mark Kriegel was published by Rugged Land Books. Shortly thereafter, the book was on the New York Times extended bestseller list (number 23). In conjunction with the release of the book, Namath was interviewed for the November 19, 2006, edition of 60 Minutes on CBS.

A recent documentary about Namath's hometown of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, includes a segment on Namath and why the city has celebrated its ties to him. In 2009, he presented the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the winning team of Super Bowl XLIII, 40 years after winning Super Bowl III. Coincidentally, the team he presented the trophy to was his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers, with NBC Sports (which had the broadcasting rights to Super Bowl XLIII) introducing him as "Hall of Fame quarterback and Pennsylvania native Joe Namath."

Icon and advertisements[edit]

Namath's nickname "Broadway Joe" was given to him by Sherman Plunkett, a Jets teammate. The "Joe Willie Namath" moniker, Namath's full given name, was popularized by sportscaster Howard Cosell. He originated the fad of wearing a full-length fur coat on the sidelines, a habit which was adopted by many players after him. The NFL has since banned this, requiring all team personnel (players, coaches, athletic trainers, etc.) to wear league-approved team apparel. Namath stood out from other AFL and NFL players by wearing low-cut white shoes rather than traditional black high-tops (thus the nickname "Joe Willie Whiteshoes"). Today, the NFL often fines players for not wearing shoes that match those of their teammates.

Namath also appeared in television advertisements both during and after his playing career, most notably for Ovaltine milk flavoring,[35] Noxzema shaving cream (in which he was shaved by a then-unknown Farrah Fawcett),[36] and Hanes Beautymist pantyhose. All of these commercials contributed to his becoming something of a pop-culture icon. He has appeared in advertising as recently as 2003. In 2014, Namath appeared in a DirectTV commercial starring the Manning brothers making stew with one's mother.

Namath also opened several bars under the name Broadway Joe's in both New York City and in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (location of the University of Alabama). These continue today with moderate success.

Namath continues to serve as an unofficial spokesman and goodwill ambassador for the Jets.[37]

In summer/fall of 2011, Namath was representing Topps and promoting a "Super Bowl Legends" contest, appearing on its behalf on the Late Show with David Letterman.[38]

On June 2, 2013, Namath was the guest speaker at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, for the unveiling of the Canton, Ohio, museum's $27 million expansion and renovation.

See also[edit]


  • Namath, Joe Willie; Schaap, Richard (1970). I Can't Wait Until Tomorrow...'Cause I Get Better Looking Every Day. Signet. ASIN B00005W4MN. 
  • Kriegel, Mark (2004). Namath: A Biography. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-670-03329-4. 
  • Namath, Joe (2006). Namath. New York: Rugged Land Books. ISBN 1-59071-081-9. 


  1. ^ Switz, Larry. "Joe Namath: Biography". ESPN. Archived from the original on 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  2. ^ "Joe Namath: Biography". Pro football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  3. ^ "Joe Namath". Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d "Playboy's Candid Conversation With The Superswinger QB, Joe Namath". Playboy. December 1969. 
  6. ^ "ESPN Classic – Namath was lovable rogue". Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Larry Bruno, former Beaver Falls coach, dies". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 24, 2010. 
  9. ^ Cannizzaro, Mark (2011). New York Jets:The Complete Illustrated History. MVP Books. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-7603-4063-9. 
  10. ^ DiRoma, Frank Joseph (2 April 2007). "Namath, Joseph William ("Broadway Joe")". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Retrieved 27 May 2015. But Namath declined, and opted for college at his mother's request. 
  11. ^ "Football Great Joe Namath Earns College Degree 42 Years Later". Fox News. 15 December 2007. Retrieved 27 May 2015. 
  12. ^ DiRoma, Frank Joseph. "Joe Namath". Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  13. ^ Schwartz, Joe. "Namath was lovable rogue". ESPN. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  14. ^ "Football great Joe Namath earns college degree 42 years later". FOX News. 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  15. ^ a b Smits, Ted (June 19, 1966). "Namath's a pro, but pins dubious". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 2B. 
  16. ^ Daley, Arthur (December 10, 1965). "Army made sure before declaring Namath unfit". Milwaukee Journal. (New York Times). p. 2, final. 
  17. ^ "Army defends Joe Namath stand". Ottawa Citizen. Associated Press. December 8, 1965. p. 19. 
  18. ^ NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 397
  19. ^ "Jets make Namath richest pro rookie". St. Petersburg Times. Associated Press. January 3, 1965. p. 3C. 
  20. ^ Namath, Joe Willie; Schaap, Dick (November 26, 1969). "Jets' president makes Joe a '$400,000 quarterback'". Chicago Tribune. (book excerpt). p. 7, section 3. 
  21. ^ Boyle, Robert H. (July 19, 1965). "Show-biz Sonny and his quest for stars". Sports Illustrated: 66. 
  22. ^ "Namath says rookie award 'real nice'". Free Lance Star. Fredericksburg. Associated Press. December 17, 1965. p. 11. 
  23. ^ Greenberg, Chris (28 December 2011). "Drew Brees Passes Dan Marino: Saints QB Joins Marino, Joe Namath, Dan Fouts In Holding NFL Record". Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 May 2015. 
  24. ^ Zinser, Lynn (May 25, 2012). "Pregame Talk Is Cheap, but This Vow Resonates". The New York Times. p. B10. Archived from the original on May 25, 2012. 
  25. ^ a b Axthelm, Pete (1971-07-19). "The Third Annual Permanent Retirement of Joe Namath". New York. p. 71. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  26. ^ Kreigel, Mark. Namath: A Biography. New York: Viking, 2004. 346
  27. ^ Williams, Joe (2013-05-31). "Long after retiring from Bears, Predators coach's love of Chicago remains strong". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2013-05-31. 
  28. ^ Quarterback Sneak at IMDB
  29. ^ "The Competitive Edge with Joe Namath". Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  30. ^ Video: Honoring Joe Namath September 12, 2012.
  31. ^ a b "Jilted Joe" People magazine, April 19, 1999
  32. ^ a b "Joe Namath's teenaged daughter gives birth". 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  33. ^ Griffith, Bill (December 23, 2003). "Namath Incident Not Being Kissed Off". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  34. ^ Kriegel, Mark (2004). Namath: A Biography. New York: Viking. ISBN 0-670-03329-4. 
  35. ^ Celeb Ad: Ovaltine with Joe Namath, Historic Films Stock Footage Archive, YouTube
  36. ^ Noxzema with Farrah, YouTube
  37. ^ Eskenazi, Gerald (August 28, 2003). "PRO FOOTBALL; Jets Turn a Gathering Into a Testaverde Rally". The New York Times. 
  38. ^ Mallozzi, Vincent M. (25 September 2011). "30 Seconds With Joe Namath". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 

External links[edit]