Joe Namath’s place in football history is not limited to his fine record of 12 seasons with the New York Jets and one swan-song year at the end of his career with the Los Angeles Rams. Namath was also in the thick of the 1960s rivalry between the National and American Football Leagues.
Drafted by the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals, Namath raised eyebrows when he signed with the AFL’s New York Jets, in no small part, one must assume, because of the then astronomical $400,000 contract he was offered. That, and his reputation as a ladies man, earned him the nickname Broadway Joe.
On the field, the former Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback, who played for legendary coach Bear Bryant, excelled in his first season, earning Rookie of the Year honors. In 1967, he became the first quarterback in any league the throw for more than 4,000 yards in a single season. But his greatest triumph came at the end of the 1968 season—in 1969, actually—when he delivered on his promise of a Jets victory over the NFL’s mighty Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
Namath’s idol, Johnny Unitas, was on the Colts bench until late in that game, but it was Namath’s 17 of 28 completions—which got Matt Snell close enough to score a touchdown and Jim Turner close enough to kick three field goals—that kept the pressure on the Colts. Namath was named the game’s Most Valuable Player and gave the AFL its first Super Bowl victory.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985, Namath has long been a favorite of football-memorabilia collectors. Indeed, few vintage football cards are as iconic as his vertical, 1965 Topps rookie card.
The illustration of the young Namath, with an all-business expression on his face, floats on a bright yellow background—the words “NEW YORK” hover above his head like a Broadway marquee. In fact, all of Namath’s Topps cards from the 1960s are collectible, as are recent items, from signed jerseys and footballs to autographed photos.