Joe Namath calls Derek Jeter an 'angel'
TAMPA, Fla. - Derek Jeter has been described in a variety of ways during his career.
Joe Namath brought something new Monday.
"Knowing the scrutiny that he's had over the years," the Jets Hall of Famer said at Yankees camp, "I can't imagine how the guy could be an angel like this over the years. He's to be respected for every phase of his life, it seems."
Namath was decked out in full uniform, complete with pinstriped pants and a blue jersey with No. 12 on the back. He threw the ceremonial first pitch to Jeter, then spent much of the game next to Joe Girardi and his coaches in the dugout.
Near game's end, Namath was seen posing with co-owner Hank Steinbrenner outside the clubhouse. And Steinbrenner wasn't the only one somewhat giddy about the presence of the quarterback.
"It was awesome," Girardi said. "It was a special day . . . That was a thrill for me."
About six hours earlier came a made-to-order photo op: Jeter and Namath, two New York icons, chatting in the dugout after batting practice.
"Over the years, I've learned to respect what teammates and coaches have to say about the guys they work with, and I've only heard wonderful compliments about him," Namath said. "And then we get to see him in person or on the television and how he conducts himself away from the game or off the field . . . Many of us fell short with some of that, but you learn to bounce back. It's human to error, and I know about that. We do our best to come back. Derek hasn't made many errors that I've been able to witness."
Told of Namath's "angel" description, Jeter smiled.
"Puts a lot of pressure on me," he said.
The 39-year-old shortstop said he met Namath very early in his career -- he thought 1997 -- during the filming of a commercial.
"It goes without saying what he accomplished in his career, especially playing in New York," Jeter said before smiling again. "I didn't watch him play football, because I'm too young. But I've admired the confidence that he played with. It's one of the perks you get from playing here. You get an opportunity to meet a lot of special people over the years."
Despite his status as a New York legend, Namath said he cannot relate to Jeter.
"Only if I had a big enough head to try to," Namath said. "No, he's special, I can't relate to him. Some of the things that athletes, people in the public eye [go through], I can relate to a bit. But his career and where he's been, what he's done, I can't relate to all that.
"We accomplished a goal when I was a part of a couple of teams in my career and we won championships. Well, he's done quite a bit more. So no, I don't relate to what he's been able to do."