Joe Namath is a professional football player who guest starred in Bart Star.
Joe Namath 'Broadway Joe' was born in Beaver Falls in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, thirty miles from Pittsburgh, growing up in the city's Lower End neighborhood. He was a standout in football, basketball and baseball. In an age where dunks were still 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 10–0 record in 1960. Coach Bruno would later be his presenter to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Between 1962 and 1964, Namath played for the Alabama Crimson Tide program under coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. A year after being suspended for the final two games of the season, he 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". 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.
Namath's time at Alabama was a culture shock for him. Beaver Falls' Lower End neighborhood was (and still is, as of 2010) predominantly African American. Namath attended Alabama at the height of the Civil Rights movement in the Southern United States (especially the Deep South) and often got into fights with his white teammates and other white Southerners when defending African Americans.
Namath was the American Football League Rookie of the year in 1965 and 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. He was a four-time American Football League 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 that 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 American Football League 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.
A high point in his career was his performance in the Jets' 16–7 win over the Baltimore Colts in the third Super Bowl in January 1969, which was before the AFL-NFL merger. Namath was named MVP of Super Bowl III. This win would make him the first quarterback to ever start and win a national championship game in college, and to start and win a major professional league championship and a Super Bowl. The Colts were touted as "the greatest football team in history". Former NFL star and coach Norm Van Brocklin ridiculed the AFL before the game, saying "This will be Namath's first Professional Football game." Writers from NFL cities insisted it would take the AFL several more years to be truly competitive with the NFL. Much of the hype surrounding the game was related to how it would either prove or disprove the proposition that the AFL teams were truly worthy of being allowed to merge with the NFL; the first two such games had resulted in blowout victories for the NFL champion in the two previous years, the Green Bay Packers, and the Colts were even more favored by media figures and handicappers than the Packers had been.
Three days before the game, Namath responded to a heckler in Miami with the now-famous line: "We’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee it." His prediction was initially ignored, but it became legendary after the Jets' upset of the Colts. Namath's team, won the World Championship at Super Bowl III and was crowned the most valuable player, making him the first and only quarterback to ever start and win a national championship game in college and a Super Bowl. He then went on to be a minor actor in The Waverly Wonders and guest starred on many shows, including the Simpsons.
In the game, however, Namath backed up his boast and showed that his success against tough American Football League competition had more than prepared him to take on the NFL. The Colts' vaunted defense was unable to contain the Jets' running or passing game, while their 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. Namath acquired legendary status for American Football League 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 American Football League's Bills had intercepted Namath five times, three for touchdowns, in the Bills' only win that 1968 AFL season.
Namath was married to Deborah Mays for 15 years before divorcing her in 1999, and he has two children with her.
- American Football League Rookie of the Year 1965
- AFL-NFL Super Bowl MVP -Super Bowl III, 1969
- NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award
- American Football League MVP
- Hickok Belt Winner
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