Thoughts on NY Jet Great…Joe Klecko

I am a lifelong New York Jet fan so I must admit that my feelings towards Joe Klecko are colored by my allegiance and fan-dom.  That said, #73 was undoubtedly one of the greatest, if not the greatest defensive lineman of his era.

 

New York Jets logo

New York Jets logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

English: Wayne Hardin and Joe Klecko at Temple

All of the hyperbole fits Joe Klecko.  Tough. Physical. Fearless. Smart. Courageous. Here are  quotes from Joe’s contemporaries.  Hall of Fame center Dwight Stephenson, in describing Klecko as a “great defensive lineman”, considered him one of the two best interior linemen he had ever faced. Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Munoz said about Klecko, “In my 13 seasons, Joe is right there at the top of the defensive ends I had to block, up there with Fred Dean, Lee Roy Selmon and Bruce Smith. Joe was the strongest guy I ever faced. He had perfect technique — hands in tight, great leverage. My second year, 1981, we went to Shea and beat the Jets, 31-30, but he was such an intense, smart player, I knew I was in a battle. He was the leader, the guy who kept that unit together.”  Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure added that “You can’t think of his ten year period without him. I had to block Joe Greene and Merlin Olsen when I was playing and, believe me, Joe Klecko was equal to those two guys. If Joe Klecko had played one position for ten years, he’d have been considered one of the top two or three players at that position, whichever one it was. There’s not another player who went to the Pro Bowl at three different positions. You take a defensive end and put him at nose tackle and he’s just as good there, that’s a great player. We need to get Joe Klecko in the Hall of Fame.”[7]

Joe Kleck was THAT good.  I have been a season ticket holder since Klecko’s second year with the JETS and I watched his play from the stands for many years.  I was always amazed at the tenacity and fierce aggression he showed at all times. This is the ONLY man to make the Pro Bowl at three different DEFENSIVE positions. (Frank Gifford is the only other person to make the Pro Bowl from three positions) That is a pretty incredible accomplishment.  He basically created the nose tackle position and had an astounding 7.5 sacks in his first year manning that spot.

 

2008 Pro Bowl

2008 Pro Bowl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were instances when he was injured and yet he managed to make play after play to lead the Jet defense. I remember a game in the old GIANTS Stadium when Klecko cut his hand on the helmet of one of the defensive players…I think it was safety Darroll Ray. There was blood all over the carpet and all over Klecko’s uniform.  He ran off the field and into the locker room and moments later Klecko reappeared with his hand in a wrap and continued to play and play very well.  We later found out that the cut was pretty bad and that Klecko had multiple stitches before returning to the game.

Let’s look at the stats.

24 sacks ( this stat was not an official statistic in the beginning of Joe’s career) He had numerous seasons with many sacks and many game changing plays. He had 9 fumble recoveries. He was the NEA NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1981.  That year as a member of the “SACK EXCHANGE”, he lead the league in sacks with 20.5. He was the PFWA Defensive Player of the Year in 1981. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1981. Joe was elected to the Pro Bowl in 1981, 1983, 1984 and 1985.  He was named All Pro in 1981 and 1985.  The JETS retired his number 73 and placed his name in the RING OF HONOR at the Stadium.

Joe Klecko was a warrior and a leader. In my opinion he belongs in the Football Hall of Fame.

 

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