As the summer sun roasts the Jersey shore, and the 4th of July week comes to an end, there's little New York Jets football news until training camp begins Friday, July 28th.
This is the perfect time of the year to stroll down memory lane for long-time New York Jets fans and also a good time to fill in younger fans with stories of New York Jets superstars.
Eric Allen, Senior reporter for the New York Jets, recently wrote a series of articles about Joe Klecko on the New York Jets website. For some of you who don't subscribe to the site, I'll cover one of the New York Jets Ring of Honor's most esteemed members.
Joe Klecko was born in Chester, Pa. in 1953, and played football for St. James Catholic High School for Boys. Klecko played semi-pro football, under Hall of Fame Coach Wayne Hardin, for the Seaboard Football League. He then went on to play at Temple University. He led his team in tackles season 74-76 and received All-American mention junior and senior year. He was voted rookie of the year on October 27, 1973, after a blow-out win against Delaware, racking up 5 sacks and 15 tackles.
Joe Klecko was drafted in the 6th round (144th overall) in the 1977 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. 1977 was the third consecutive 3-11 season for the New York Jets, which prompted a lawsuit against the stadium contract due to schedule entanglements with the New York Mets, who also played at Shea Stadium. The contract had forced the New York Jets to open their seasons with several away games, putting a major strain on the team. The New York Jets won their litigation and were finally allowed to play at home in September.
With the football stars aligning properly, Joe Klecko teamed up with Abdul Salaam, Marty Lyons and Mark Gastineau to form one of the top defensive lines in the NFL. Dubbed the "New York Sack Exchange," the four players racked up 66 sacks combined in 1981 and lead the New York Jets to their first playoff game since 1969.
The New York Jets made it to the 1982 playoffs again, despite Klecko rupturing his patella tendon in his right knee in game 2 against the New England Patriots. He played in two playoff victories against the Oakland Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals.
In 1983 and 1984, Klecko was named to the Pro-Bowl as Defensive Tackle. In 1985, he played Nose Tackle and led the New York Jets with 96 tackles and 5 forced fumbles. He became the second player, after Frank Gifford, to be selected to the Pro-Bowl at 3 different positions.
All of these phenomenal statistics, nominated to the Pro Football Hall of Fame several times, and his name has never been picked. As the years have gone by to be selected in what is known as the "Modern Era" inductees, he has now missed the benchmark. Competition to be selected is now much harder for Senior candidates.
The New York Jets did not forget Joe Klecko, retiring his #73 on December 26, 2004. He becomes only the 3rd New York Jet to hold this honor, along with Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath and Hall of Fame wide receiver Don Maynard.
On August 16, 2010, Joe Klecko was also inducted into the New York Jets Ring of Honor, a member of the very first group selected.
Why has Joe Klecko been overlooked by the Selection Committee for the Hall of Fame. New York Jets fans, it doesn't hurt to make some noise to the media, and give Joe Klecko the place of honor he deserves in Canton.