January 11, 2017

Joe Namath “Number 1” Super Bowl III January 12, 1969

This vintage sports wall art piece by Classic Sports Pictures features Joe Namath displaying the “Number #1” after the heavy underdog American Football League (AFL) champion New York Jets defeated the National Football League (NFL) champion Baltimore Colts by a score of 16–7 in Super Bowl III.  The game was played on January 12, 1969 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida and is regarded as one of the greatest upsets in American sports history.

Before the start of Super Bowl III most sports writers and fans believed AFL teams were less talented than NFL clubs, and expected the Colts to defeat the Jets by a wide margin.  Baltimore posted a 13–1 record during the 1968 NFL season before defeating the Cleveland Browns, 34–0, in the 1968 NFL Championship Game.  The Jets finished the 1968 AFL season at 11–3, and defeated the Oakland Raiders, 27–23, in the 1968 AFL Championship Game.

Undaunted, Jets quarterback Joe Namath made an appearance three days before the Super Bowl at the Miami Touchdown Club and brashly guaranteed a victory.  His team backed up his words by controlling most of the game, and built a 16–0 lead through the fourth quarter off of a touchdown run by Matt Snell and three field goals by Jim Turner.  Colts quarterback Earl Morrall threw three interceptions before being replaced by Johnny Unitas, who then led Baltimore to its only touchdown during the last few minutes of the game. Namath, who completed 17 out of 28 passes for 206 yards, was named as the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player.

The flashy quarterback known as “Broadway Joe”

Joe Namath was born on May 31, 1943 in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.  He was a star quarterback at the University of Alabama, where he played for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant from 1962 to 1964 and led the team to a 29-4 record in three seasons.  On January 1, 1965, he won the Most Valuable Player award after Alabama’s loss at the Orange Bowl, and almost immediately signed a contract to play with the New York Jets of the American Football League.

He played professional football from 1965 to 1977, but it was his performance in 1969’s Super Bowl III that catapulted him to stardom and cemented his place in sports history.  Namath wore uniform number 12 throughout his thirteen year (1965-1977) pro career.  The first twelve of those years were with the New York Jets and the final year was with the Los Angeles Rams.  He was voted 1965 AFL Rookie-of-the-Year.

The off-field carousing and flash earned him the nickname “Broadway Joe,” and he was one of the first professional football players to become a celebrity outside the realm of sports.  He advertised products on television (notably women’s pantyhose), guest-starred on TV shows and tried a turn acting in feature films. He was also famous for his flamboyant fashion sense and was often seen on the sidelines wearing a full-length fur coat.

Statistics belie Namath’s enduring influence on the game of professional football. He retired after playing 143 games over 13 years in the AFL and NFL, including playoffs.  Due mainly to chronic injuries that undermined his career at its peak, his overall record is 68 wins, 71 losses, and four ties, 64–64–4 in 132 starts, and 4–7 in relief.  He completed 1,886 passes for 27,663 yards, threw 173 touchdowns, and had 220 interceptions.  Joe Namath was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1985.