Joe Namath and Kenny Graham

Joe Namath’s first trip to San Diego was not a successful one for Broadway Joe.  Namath went 18-34 for 179 yards, and three interceptions as the Chargers trounced the Jets by a score of 38-7.  One person that should be recognized in this video, however, is Kenny Graham, the Chargers defensive back that returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown.  Graham is often overlooked as a star on the Chargers, but he was a fearless safety that could hit like a freight train.    His teammate, Bob Petrich, recalled Graham’s intensity in a game against hte Chiefs.  “We were playing Kansas City one time in San Diego, and Kenny was our safety.  He was like Rodney Harrison, you know, that type of guy.  Fearless, antagonistic.  We were just controlling these guys, and they wouldn’t run on our side.  We stopped them everywhere.  They stopped running.  So Kenny would get up to the line and start yelling, ‘Why don’t you run over here, you chicken shit!’”

Regarding Graham’s athleticism, Petrich said, “He was just a wild guy.  He was the 13th-round draft choice and he’s the most underrated guy.  He was the concrete that held the team together.  He could stuff a basketball.  Lance couldn’t dunk.  They measured Lance’s jump when he went for a football–his head would have hit the rim.  Graham could, and he was only 6 feet tall. ”

Kenny Graham retired with 28 interceptions in his seven-year career.  He was a four-time AFL All-Star, and was named to the AFL’s All-Time Second Team.


Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

8 Responses to Joe Namath and Kenny Graham

  1. Rick Smith says:

    ‘Bias: 1958 Southern California semifinals at Sweetwater. Santa Monica cheerleaders screaming, “Push ’em back, push ’em back, to TJ, to TJ!”. Santa Monica won 34-20, Kenny Graham star of game. He couldn’t run that well but he was a tough, hard-hitting safety. Married a girl from Lincoln, who later married Mike Garrett. I think Kenny was or is homeless.

  2. Buzz Ponce says:

    I remember well Joe Namath’s first game in San Diego as a New York Jet. It was 1965 and I was fortunate enough to be a ball boy for the Chargers that year. I was assigned to the visiting team that game and polished Namath’s infamous white shoes prior to the action. He actually said, “Thanks, kid,” and tossed my a quarter. I also remember well Keny Graham — outstanding player and a great, happy go-lucky guy off the field. I hope Rick Smith is incorrect on the homeless situaation. Number 33 deserves much, much better!

  3. Tom says:

    I knew Graham had attended Santa Monica HS, forgotten his college Washington State where he played for Jim Sutherland. Sutherland coached and taught at Santa Monica Hi through the 1940’s and in 1955 accepted the Washington State Head Coaching job and resigned or let go after Kenny’s senior year 1963.

    Kenny was a two time first team All CIF SS selection, which is rare, rarer yet is Kenny was All CIF 1st team t two different offensive positions, end as a Jr and running back his Sr.

    The AFL in the 1960’s had lots of great players, none better than Kenny.

    Jim Sutherland acheived great success at Santa Monica HS with such athletes as Parry O’Brien, Dick Horn, Ronnie Knox, Sandy Lederman, AD Williams, RC “Alley Oop” Owens, Dick Dorsey and Lee Grosscup to name a few.

    In the 1967/68 High School year, cheerleading in the CIF SS changed, no longer could cheers or signs reference words like stomp, smash, destroy, scalp, or hang. I attended a high school with Cardnals as the mascot and prior to 1967/68 a common opponent sign was “Cut The Cards”, in 1967 it changed to “Shuffle” or “Deal The Cards a Loss”.

  4. Niecie says:

    That’s my uncle and he is not homeless he doing well in Bakersfeild

    • Dahlem says:

      Niecie….my name is John Dahlem and Tebb Kusserow and I are the sports historians for Santa Monica High School. We both played with Kenny back in the late 1950’s and early 60’s…go Vikings. We would like to connect with Kenny and see how he doing and chat about the good old Samohi days. Do you know how we could contact Kenny?

      Much appreciated

      John and Tebb Samohi Class of 1961 W

  5. Niecie says:

    He was so bitter against the league I’m so sad he has not fifteen his proper due

  6. Niecie says:

    Correction received his proper due

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