Nearly 50 years after firing up his team by guaranteeing the Jets would beat the heavily favored Colts in Super Bowl III, Joe Namath managed to fire up a sellout crowd at MetLife Stadium on Sunday by proclaiming his belief in this year’s team.
During a halftime ceremony honoring the players from that legendary 16-7 win at the Orange Bowl on Jan. 12, 1969, Namath addressed the crowd and even led the fans in the team’s signature cheer.
“I want you to know, believe in this team today that you have here!” Namath yelled into the microphone. “The current Jets can beat anybody anytime! You’ve got to believe that! They’ve got to believe that, and you can get it done!”
Namath then ended his brief speech with “J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!”
The crowd gave him a huge ovation, and the Jets went on to beat the Colts, 42-34. Rookie Sam Darnold had a terrific day, going 24-for-30 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Before the game, Namath was similarly bullish about the current team.
“I’m as optimistic as I could possibly be,” he said. “Really, I think all of us are pulling for the Jets to win a championship, mainly for the fans, as well as the players and all. Over the years, players come and go, ownership changes, coaches change, but the fans have been there since ’63, and all of us would love to see the fans get another championship.”
Namath, 75, heaped praise on Darnold, a former USC star.
“I like what I saw of him in college and what the coaches have had to say about him and his teammates,” Namath said. “Yeah, I like him. But you know it takes up front, outside, two sides of the ball. It’s a team game. Sam will be good. You just need all the pieces to fit, though. You’ve got to have a complete team.”
A reporter suggested that it takes time to build a champion. Namath laughed.
“You know, 50 years is enough time,” said the only quarterback ever to play for the Jets in the Super Bowl. “Fifty-one, 52, they should be getting it done in the next few years.”