Joe Namath played his college ball for the legendary Bear Bryant at Alabama, and then became a legend in his own right as quarterback of the New York Jets. Namath, in white high-top cleats, hobbled around Shea Stadium on knees that were held together by athletic tape, ACE bandages and prayer, flung balls to a trio of receivers from the great state of Texas, and set league passing records left and right. And he did it all while looking cooler than any one man should have the right to look.
But 1968 was a dream year, even by Joe Namath standards. The year after he led the AFL in passes, completions, passing yards and yards-per-attempt, Joe Namath led the New York Jets to an 11-3 record, and first place in the AFL’s Eastern Division. He did so by connecting on 187-of-380 passes, for 3,147 yards and 15 touchdowns.
After defeating the Oakland Raiders by a score of 27-23 in the AFL Championship Game, Namath and the Jets headed to Miami where they met up with what was described as “the greatest team in pro football history,” the Johnny Unitas-led Baltimore Colts. Namath’s guarantee of victory has become a thing of legend, as has his picking apart of the Colts defense en route to a 16-7 victory. The joy of the Jets Super Bowl III victory was shared by every owner, coach, player, ball boy and fan of the AFL, and went a long, long way towards silencing the NFL elitists.
As was to be expected, Joe Namath was named as the AFL’s Most Valuable Player for 1968, and was selected by all three voting bodies, the United Press International, Associated Press and The Sporting News.