Winston Hill, the former Jets offensive tackle and blindside protector of quarterback Joe Namath en route to winning Super Bowl III, died Tuesday night. He was 74.
The Jets announced late Tuesday night that Hill had passed away in his adopted hometown of Denver.
Hill, who wore No. 75 and played 15 seasons in the NFL (14 of them with the Jets), still holds the franchise record for offensive linemen with 195 consecutive games played. A member of the Jets’ inaugural Ring of Honor class in 2010, Hill made a franchise-record eight All-Star and Pro Bowl teams, the first five at left tackle and the final three at right tackle.
“I was very sad to hear of the passing of Winston Hill,” Jets owner Woody Johnson said in a statement. “He was our most decorated player with a franchise-record eight all-star game appearances. And as accomplished as he was on the field, he was an even better person whose profound impact on his teammates and those who came in contact with him left an impression for a lifetime.
“He was the type of man who if you were his friend, you thought you were his best friend. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and many friends of one of the Jets’ all-time greats.”
Hill grew up in Joaquin, Texas, and was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the 11th round of the 1962 NFL draft. After being released in August 1963, he signed with the Jets, then in the American Football League, the very next day. He emerged as one of the best professional offensive linemen, earning Pro Bowl honors in the Jets’ first four seasons as members of the NFL (1970-73). He closed out his career in 1977 as a member of the Los Angeles Rams.
“Winston should be in the Hall of Fame,” Frank Ramos, the Jets’ longtime public relations director, was quoted as saying on the Jets’ website.
Few can forget Namath’s famous victory “guarantee” before Super Bowl III. Running back Emerson Boozer scored the lone touchdown for the Jets during their 16-7 win, and Hill played a big part of it.
The offense ran the same power play again and again with Hill and Boozer as lead blocker. “19 straight,” Boozer recalled to Newsday in January 2014. “That was our bread-and-butter play. We ran it constantly.”
With news of Hill’s passing, Boozer couldn’t help but reflect on the gridiron memories they once shared. “I lined up behind Winnie in the backfield,” the Huntington resident told the Jets’ website. “We worked so well together. We communicated without speaking. And you could not meet a nicer person off the field. But on the field? Winnie was vicious!”
Randy Rasmussen, a fellow offensive lineman, described Hill was as “a wonderful friend and teammate.
“He taught me a lot about how to play the game and more importantly how to be a man. I will miss him very much.”