BY COLIN “BIG C” MACGUIRE
The Greenville Standard
This coming Friday, May 31, Joe Willie Namath will be turning 76.
Born and reared in Beaver Falls, Pa., Joe’s first choice to play football was the University of Maryland.
To enter the University of Maryland, you had to have a 750 or better on the SAT. Joe missed it by a few points. An assistant at Maryland contacted Alabama assistant Charlie Bradshaw about Joe.
The coaches at Maryland were afraid Joe would be playing against them. Coach Howard Schnellenberger flew up to Beaver Falls to recruit and sign Joe. Several days later, Joe was up in the tower talking with Coach Bryant.
Needless to say this got the player’s attention. Joe said the only word, he understood from Coach Bryant was stud. He was describing a player on the practice field.
Joe’s fifth play as an Alabama football player went for a touchdown. The play was a 52-yard touchdown pass to Richard Williamson from neighboring Sandy Ridge near Fort Deposit.
Alabama beat Georgia 35-0 that night. Alabama finished with 10-1 record and a number five ranking.
The Tide went on to claim the Orange Bowl Champions after beating Oklahoma 17-0. Joe led Alabama to 7-2 record in 1963 before being suspended by Coach Bryant for the last two games of the season.
Joe returned in 1964, in good graces with Coach Bryant. In the opening game Joe scored three touchdowns against Georgia. Namath’s performance earned him National Back of the Week honors.
The fourth game of the season, Namath suffered a knee injury which would hamper him for the rest of his career. Namath would play sparsely the rest of the regular season. With two minutes left in the first half of the Georgia Tech game, score 0-0, Namath entered game. On the second play, he completed a 48-yard pass to David Ray, and a play later Alabama is up 7-0.
Alabama recovered an onside kick, and two plays later, Namath threw a touchdown pass to David Ray to go up 14-0. The damage was done in 80 seconds. Alabama beat Georgia Tech 24-7.
Namath, twelve days later entered the Auburn game leading 14-7. Namath handed the ball off to Steve Bowman, who broke for a 52-yard run. On the next play, Namath connected with Ray Perkins for a 23-yard touchdown to go up 21-7. Alabama beat Auburn 21-14.
The next week, Alabama was named National Champions. Joe’s last game was the Orange Bowl losing to Texas 21-17 on a controversial call.
Joe scored on fourth down, one official said yes, one said no. There were no overrules for yes. Four years later, Super Bowl III was held at the Orange Bowl. This time Joe’s team, the New York Jets beat the Baltimore Colts 16-7.
Happy Birthday Joe, have many, many, more.