At Beaver Falls High School in Pennsylvania, the 6-2,
200 pound Namath had excelled in baseball, basketball and football. He
quarterbacked his high school team to a perfect season and the Western
Pennsylvania championship. He dazzled the opposition on the baseball field
as an outfielder and pitcher, but turned down a $20,000 bonus offered by
the Baltimore Orioles of the American League claiming he wanted to
concentrate on football.
At the University of Alabama, Namath was "all
everything." His legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant said of
him: "He is the greatest athlete I have ever coached."
Joe Willie guided the "Crimson Tide" to
Orange Bowl appearances in 1963 and 1964. The following season, as an
All-American, he led 'Bama to a perfect Season, the SEC title, and the
national championship even though his team was defeated by the University
of Texas in the Orange Bowl. In his collegiate career at Alabama, Namath
was instrumental in getting his teams to post a 28-3-0 record .
The huge and highly publicized bidding war for Joe
Namath saw the AFL and the Jets come out as victors. Namath didn't do too
badly either. He was signed to a four-year contract at $25,000 per season,
plus a $200,000 bonus. Scouting jobs were provided for his three brothers
and a brother-in-law at $10,000 a year. A green Lincoln Continental plus
other luxury features were included in the deal which totaled
approximately $427,000 - a lot of money for that time.
What was to be called "the Namath Effect"
was now in place. Off the playing field, Joe was showcased with glamorous
starlet types with the Manhattan skyline as his backdrop, and the saloons
and penthouses of New York City as his nesting and resting places. His
props were long hair and sideburns, expensive and flashy clothes, and
The American Football League's leading man, an
affable, charming, outgoing man, Namath attracted the ardor of women and
the envy of men. They called him "Broadway Joe." It was a
well-publicized and well- deserved nickname for the most famous football
figure of his era in the Big Apple.
There were those who criticized him for his
flamboyant lifestyle. There were those who were just flat out jealous. In
1969, he suffered some come-uppance for what some perceived as his over
the edge ways. He was ordered by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle to sell his
interest in Bachelors III, a nightclub on Manhattan's Upper East Side
because it was allegedly frequented by gamblers.
Despite having four knee operations, Namath not only
survived but prevailed in the grueling world of pro football. Rookie of
the Year in 1965, two years later Namath became the first QB to pass for
more than 4,000 yards in a season.
He had many shining moments in his time in
professional football, but there was nothing ever better for him, the
American Football League and the New York Jets than a January day in 1969.