“Broadway Joe” Was More Than Just a Pretty Face

By Lisa Welz

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Flashback to July 19, 1965. The latest issue of Sports Illustrated has just come out, and there’s a rookie quarterback from the New York Jets on the cover. The lights of Broadway shine behind him, while the caption reads, “Football Goes Show Biz.”
The title would earn Joe Namath the nickname “Broadway Joe,” thanks to teammate Sherman Plunkett and his sense of humor. Years later, Namath would earn the moniker with his second career, his confidence, and his fashion sense, leading him to wear fur coats that somehow seemed to suit him when others would simply look stupid in them.
Fast forward another 50 years, to July, 2015, and Namath was on hand while the iconic image was recreated with the Jets cornerback, Darrelle Revis. He played part of the entourage in the reprised image and the timing invited interesting comparisons between 1965 and 2015.
For instance, the median price of a new house in 1965 was $21,000 while today it is $275,000. A gallon of gas then was 31 cents per gallon while today it slides between $2.15 and $2.60. Most fitting, given Namath’s second career in showbiz, was the comparison of the top box office summer flick—“Sound of Music” in 1965 and “Jurassic World” this year.
The media darling with the cleft chin that had women swooning in the 60’s, got his start in Beaver Falls, Penn., and played not only football, but baseball and basketball as well. Offers came in from several MLB teams, including the Yankees, Mets, Indians, Pirates and Phillies, but Namath would ultimately choose football.
He has been quoted saying he chose football because his mother wanted him to get a college education. Denied admission to University of Maryland, despite their recruitment of him, Namath chose to play for Coach Bear Bryant and the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide on a full-ride scholarship. He left the school early to enter the world of professional football and didn’t receive his degree until 2007 when he returned to complete the requirements.
Drafted on Nov. 28, 1964, by both the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and the AFL’s New York Jets, Namath chose the Jets for a reported salary of $427,000 for three years, then a record, and he was named Rookie of the Year, having helped win five of the last eight games his first season.
He was also well known throughout the league for making bold predictions and the one remembered by most people came in 1969 when he said the Jets would defeat the Buffalo Colts in Super Bowl III. It was a bold statement because they were 19-point underdogs, but he was proved right when they won 17-6 and Namath took home MVP honors.
Namath played for the Jets from 1965 to 1976 and then played in 1977 for the Los Angeles Rams before retiring. He was plagued throughout his career by knee injuries and eventually had knee replacements in both legs post-retirement. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
According to BroadwayJoe.tv, Namath’s personal website, he has some solid career stats: 3,762 pass attempts, 1,886 pass completions, a 50.1 percentage, 173 touchdowns, 220 interceptions, 27,663 passing yards, and a QB rating of 65.5.
Never suffering from a lack of confidence, Namath is quoted by profootballhof.com as saying, “I’m convinced I’m better than anybody else. I’ve been convinced of that for quite a while. I haven’t seen anything out there that I couldn’t do and do well…I get annoyed with myself for doing something wrong…I tell myself, ‘You’re the best, damn it, do it right.’”
It’s that confidence, and showmanship, that likely contributed to his second career in the entertainment industry. He appeared in a number of memorable television commercials, most notably for Ovaltine, Noxema (where he was shaved by Farrah Fawcett), and Hanes pantyhose. It resulted in his becoming what some might consider a pop icon.
He is also credited on IMDb.com with roles in movies and television series, as well as guest appearances. The long list includes many notable shows, including, “Here’s Lucy,” “The Brady Bunch,” “The Flip Wilson Show,” “Laugh-in,” “The Dean Martin Show,” “The Simpsons,” “The A-Team,” and “ALF.” He was a guest host on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” several times, hosted his own show, “The Joe Namath Show.”
Namath was also a commentator for NFL games, including “Monday Night Football” in 1985. He is credited with a role playing himself in this year’s “The Wedding Ringer” and is a host on the current show, “The Competitive Edge with Joe Namath.”
Married and divorced, the father of two adult girls, he has not always been on a clean-cut path. Following a disastrous interview on ESPN, when he told interviewer Suzy Kolber on-air that he wanted to kiss her, Namath checked himself into rehab for alcoholism, a battle he talked about in his book, “Namath” that was released in 2004.
He has also been involved with a number of philanthropic projects, including The March of Dimes, The Marty Lyons Classic, Joe Namath/John Dockery Football Camp, and Children First Foundation. This summer, he also posted a reward of $100,000 for the safe return of two 14-year-old boys who disappeared while fishing off the Florida coastline.