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Joe Namath says giving up drinking saved his life

Joe Namath speaks during a halftime celebration of

Joe Namath speaks during a halftime celebration of the 1968 Super Bowl team at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 14, 2018. Credit: Lee S. Weissman

Jets legend Joe Namath opened up about his struggles with alcohol and said he doesn’t believe he would be alive today if he hadn’t quit drinking.

“I’d probably be dead now,” Namath said in his new autobiography, “All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters,” that was released on Tuesday.

Namath appeared on the “Michael Kay Show” on 98.7 ESPN Radio to promote the book and talked about his infamous interview in 2003 with ESPN’s Suzy Kolber when he told her he wanted to kiss her.

Namath said he was drunk and didn’t know what he had done until someone told him. He said he called Kolber the next morning and apologized and then sought help. He said he hasn’t had a drink since then. That ended up being the turning point in Namath’s life.

“I really believe I wouldn’t be here today,” Namath said during the radio interview. “I wouldn’t be a healthy Joe Namath today. I wouldn’t be lucky today with my family and living every day and sharing every day with my grandchildren. I really believe I would have been somewhere else on a different level. Not how we are living here. I don’t think I would have survived.

“I let everybody down. Not myself. My family, my friends, I was crushed. Suzy, I embarrassed her. To put her through that to that degree – and she handled it beautifully. When I talked with her that next morning, she was kind enough and understanding enough to make me feel like she’s going to be all right and for me to suck it up and go on. So I reached out and I got help.

“It was awful. It was worse than throwing five interceptions in a game in a sense. I needed to get help and I went and got an education. To this day, I am sober, clean, happy, healthy.”

In his book, Namath provides details of the Jets only Super Bowl championship in January 1969, which he guaranteed. The Hall of Fame quarterback still has that famous bravado at 75, saying if he was young enough to play in today’s NFL he would have been just as successful.

“If I came into play these days, I could have adjusted,” Namath said. “If these cats that are running around on the field today could do it, I know damn well I could. I bet I could do it better. How about that?”

Namath also believes the Jets are in good hands with Sam Darnold running the offense. Namath almost guaranteed that Darnold would lead the Jets to a Super Bowl title, but he said he needs the right pieces around him.

“We have witnessed in one season some really positive things that if he keeps growing, the championship is where he’s going, is where he’s going to take the team,” Namath said. “He’s going to be an All-Pro if he keeps getting better. If you don’t have the rest of the pieces you’re not going to get it done.

“Last year with the Jets we saw him more times than not playing better than poorly. You got to learn on the job. It’s a tough way to go. We got Sam, and I think he can win a championship for us if we get the rest of the pieces put together. (Caoch Adam) Gase and his staff is a key, a major key. You got to have the players.”

Namath went on to say Darnold’s ceiling is very high, almost as high as Patriots great Tom Brady.

“Excuse me, I’m not going to put the ceiling up at Brady’s level, but it could be near it,” Namath said. “I don’t know. We don’t know. We’ve seen him throw every pass you need to throw out there on the field. He’s got velocity, accuracy, he’s got determination, he’s a leader on the football team. He’ll play hard. He doesn’t show any quit and he’s tough.

“He’s got what it takes between the ears and in his chest, his heart, man. Let’s just hope he keeps growing. He’s the one that’s got to stay determined.”

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