Professional football career[ edit ] Joe Theismann and Namath at the NFL Kickoff Live concert in Despite suffering a nagging knee injury in the fourth game of his senior year at Alabama, Namath limped through the undefeated regular season to the Orange Bowl.
The two competing leagues were at the height of their bidding war, and held their respective drafts on the same day: November 28, The cartilage damage to Namath's right knee later designated him class 4-F for the military draft , a deferment from service during the Vietnam War.
While initially appalled at Namath's requests, the Cardinals told Namath they would agree to his requests, but only if he would sign before the Orange Bowl, which would've made Namath ineligible to play in the game.
On some occasions, Namath had to have his knee drained at halftime so he could finish a game. Later in life, long after he left football, he underwent knee replacement surgery on both legs. His performance in the season earned him the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year.
The first two interleague championship games had resulted in blowout victories for the NFL's Green Bay Packers , and sports writers from NFL cities insisted the AFL would take several more years to be truly competitive.
I guarantee it. The win made him the first quarterback to start and win a national championship game in college, a major professional league championship, and a Super Bowl.
The Jets' win gave the AFL instant legitimacy even to skeptics. 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.
Namath refused, apparently retiring from football during a teary news conference, but he eventually recanted and agreed to sell the tavern, and reported to the Jets in time for the —70 season. Namath again threatened to retire before the and seasons; New York wrote in that "his retirement act had become shallow and predictable".
The magazine stated that Namath did not want to attend training camp because of the risk of injury, but could not afford to retire permanently because of poor investments.
The Jets met the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland Municipal Stadium in front of both a record crowd of 85, and a huge television audience. The Jets set a team record for penalties and lost on a late Namath interception.
After winning division championships in and , the Jets struggled to records of 4—10, 6—8, 7—7, and 4— His most memorable moment in those four seasons came on September 24, , when he and his boyhood idol Johnny Unitas combined for passing yards in Baltimore. The game is considered by many NFL experts to be the finest display of passing in a single game in league history.
The Winds even dropped red from their team colors and went with just green and white to allow Namath to continue marketing his number 12 jersey in Jets colors.
The league refused, and Namath stayed with the Jets. The Winds folded five weeks into the WFL season.
Without a national television contract, the struggling WFL collapsed altogether a month later. Signing on May 12, , Namath hoped to revitalize his career, but knee injuries, a bad hamstring , and the general ravages of thirteen years as a quarterback in professional football had taken their toll.
After playing well in a 2—1 start, Namath took a beating in a one-point loss on a cold, windy, and rainy Monday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears , throwing four interceptions and having a fifth nullified by a penalty.