Football legend and lead actor Joe Namath started playing football for the unbeaten University of Alabama, where he was under the known coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and led the team to a 29-4 record in three seasons. As a professional player, he is probably best remembered for leading the New York Jets of American Football League to a Super Bowl victory in 1969, beating Baltimore for the first win by an American Football League team over the settled National Football League. He was named the game's Most Valuable Player. One of the leading quarterbacks in the 1960s, Namath spent most of his career playing for the Jets (1965-1977), but finishing out with the Los Angeles Rams in 1978. During his thirteen years in the AFL and NFL, he took part in three division champions (the 1968 and 1969 AFL East Champion Jets and the 1977 NFC West Champion Rams), received one league championship (1968 AFL Championship), and one championship (Super Bowl III). He retired with a record of 77 wins, 108 losses and 3 draws. Namath was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, and in 1999 was chosen one of The Sporting News' “100 Greatest Football Players.”
Outside of the football field, Namath also attracted a great deal of attention, especially with his lifestyle. He was noted for his love of the New York nightlife, and earned the nickname “Broadway Joe” from the New York press. After his retirement (1978), Namath has maintained in the public aye with performances on television and in films, in which he found minor success. As an actor, he was handed a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the 1970 film “Norwood” and won a 2003 TV Land Award for his guest starring turn in a 1973 episode of “The Brady Bunch,” as himself. Other film credits include “The Last Rebel” (1971), “Avalanche Express” (1979), “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (1984), “Going Under” (1990) and “Green Visionary” (1993). He also spent a time as a color commentator on the ABC “NFL Monday Night Football” and hosted the 1969 cult classic “The Joe Namath Show.” He also starred in the 1978 series “The Waverly Wonders,” as Joe Casey.
As for his married life, Namath and ex-wife Deborah Mays, also known as Tatiana, with whom he lived for 15 years from 1984 to 1999, have two daughters, Jessica Grace and Olivia Rose. He has a six-month-old granddaughter named Natalia from teen daughter Olivia.
Childhood and Family:
Joseph William Namath, professionally known as Joe Namath, was born on May 31, 1943, in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, twenty miles away from Pittsburgh, one of the numerous steel towns in Beaver County. His grandfather, A.J, immigrated from Hungary to Ellis Island and worked in the coal and steel industries of the Pittsburgh Metro Area. Joe cited his ethnicity as “Bohunk.”After the divorce of his parents, he went on to live with his mother, Rose, and maintained a tight relationship with his father. At school, Joe was excellent in basketball and baseball. He received a full scholarship on football from the University of Alabama, graduating in 1965.
On November 7, 1984, Joe was married to Deborah Mays, who after the marriage started to call herself “Tatiana.” They divorced on June 28, 1999, after having been married for 15 years. Joe and Tatiana have two daughters, Jessica Grace (born in 1986) and Olivia Rose (born in 1991).
On May 21, 2007, in West Palm Beach, his 16-year-old daughter Olivia gave birth to a baby girl named Natalia. Currently a resident of Tequesta (Fla.), where he lives with his two girls and four dogs, including a Weimaraner and a Chihuahua, renovated a wing of his home for his granddaughter and her mom. Joe said, “There are some things in life that are wonderful, and this is one of them.” He added, “I'm just happy that everyone's healthy.”
Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania native Joe Namath was a brilliant basketball and baseball player, and in era where dunks were still unusual in high school, he frequently dunked in games. Nonetheless, football dominated, although he had many offers to play baseball for such Major League teams as Mets, Indians, Yankees, Reds, Pirates, and Phillies after graduation. A fan of Roberto Clemente, he was going to sign with the Pirates, but selected to football because his mother wanted him to pursue a college education.
Namath received several offers from Division I college football programs like Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Maryland. He initially chose the University of Maryland, but was rejected because he could not reach the school's requirements. Eventually, he was accepted into the University of Alabama. Assistant coach Howard Schnellenberger says his decision to recruit Namath was “the best coaching decision I ever made.”
Under the guidance of legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Namath played for Alabama from 1962 to 1964. A year after being debarred for the final two games of the season, he brought the Crimson Tide to a National Championship in 1964. Once named “the greatest athlete I ever coached” by Bryant, as a quarterback, he also led the team to a 29-4 record in three seasons. Namath turned professional in 1965 and signed to the New York Jets of the American Football League, who were then under the direction of of Hall of Fame owner Sonny Werblin, for a salary of over $400,000, a pro football record at the time. He was soon named the American Football League Rookie of the year and then two years later, in 1967, became the first professional quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards in a season, an effort that stayed a record for the 14-game seasons that were played during that period.
In the 1968 season, Namath led the Jest to a 27-23 win over the defending AFL Champion Oakland Raiders in the year's AFL title game. He threw three touchdown passes in the game and went on to earn the 1968 Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year. Still in 1968, he was named American Football League's (AFL) Most Valuable Player. However, it was the Jets' January 1969 victory over the Baltimore Colts, who at the time were boasted as “the greatest football team in history,” in the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, now known as the Super Bowl, that really catapulted him to stardom and secured his place in sports history.
Three days before the game, Namath made headlines by stating in public, “We'll win the game. I guarantee you,” a statement he made after former NFL star and coach Norm Van Brocklin ridiculed the AFL, saying “This will be Namath's first professional football game.” Namath supported his boast by dominating the game and was eventually took home the game's Most Valuable Player, in addition to giving the Jets' a memorable triumph.
After the glorious season, However, Namath decided to retire from AFL, a decision he rebelliously made after the NFL Commissioner, Pete Rozelle, ordered him to divest himself of his interest in “Bachelors III,” a renowned bar at the Upper East Side that he newly opened. This led to a controversy, but after a compromise reached Namath came out of his retirement and resumed his football career with New York Jets. During 1970-1973, he participated in only 28 of a 58 possible games due to various injuries that caused the Jets struggled with records of 4-10, 6-8, 7-7, and 4-10. Namath's most unforgettable moment in those four season arrived in September 1972 in Baltimore when he and boyhood idol Johnny Unitas compound for 872 passing yards. Armed with his 496 yards and six touchdowns, the Jets defeated Baltimore in a 44-34 win, a first victory since the 1969 Super Bowl III. He went on to play with the Jets until 1977 when he moved to the Los Angeles Rams. However, after playing only a few games with his new team, Namath declared his ultimate retirement from football in 1978.
Despite knee injuries he had to deal with through much of his career, Namath was a four-time American Football League All-Star (1965, 1967, 1968 and 1969) and a AFC-NFC Pro Bowler (1972). In addition, he is a member of the Jets' all-time team and the American Football League All-Time Team, and in 1985, was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
Nicknamed “Broadway Joe” for his off-field bacchanal and flash, Namath became one of the first pro football players to become a celebrity outside the kingdom of sports. He did a number of endorsements on television, starred in feature films and guest starred in many TV shows. While still in football, he headlined his own show, the 1969 cult classic “The Joe Namath Show,” co-hosted by Dick Schaap, and collected a few film credits, including starring as C.C. Ryder in 1970's “C.C and Company” and 'Captain' Hollis in 1971's “The Last Rebel.” He was nominated for a a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Male in 1971 for his role as Joe William Reese in “Norwood” (1970), starring Glen Campbell and Kim Darby. No stranger in front of the camera, Namath came to the decision of pursuing an acting career after his football career ended. In 1978, he starred as Joe Casey, a pro basketball player turned history teacher and basketball coach at Waverly High School, in the TV sitcom “The Waverly Wonders,” opposite Charles Bloom, Joshua Grenrock, and Kim Lankford. He returned to the big screen in the following year with a supporting turn as Leroy in the action movie “Avalanche Express,” directed by Mark Robson and starring Lee Marvin and Robert Shaw.
Namath became even busier during the 1980s. He opened the decade by making a TV movie debut in “Marriage Is Alive Well” (1980), where he was cast as a photographer named Brian Fish. He continued to make guest appearances in such TV shows as “The Big Show” (1980), “Fantasy Island” (1980), “The Love Boat” (1980-1981), “The CBS Festival of Lively Arts for Young People” (1981) and “The A-Team” (1986), before returning to a series TV as a regular in “Light Moments in Sports” (1978), costarring with Sean Mooney. He also was featured along side Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gary Busey in “Our Voices Ourselves” (1982, TV), played Newt Newton on the comedy film “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (1984) and hosted “Light Moments in Sports 1986” (1986). The mid-1980s also found Namath serve as a color commentator on ABC's “NFL Monday Night Football.”
The sportman-turned-actor Namath portrayed Captain Joe Namath in the comedy film “Going Under” (1990), starring Bill Pullman and Wendy Schaal, and teamed up with director/actor Jason King for “Green Visionary” (1993). Three decades after he guested as himself in a 1973 episode of “The Brady Bunch,” he was awarded a TV Land for Most Memorable Male in 2003. He has kept his presence in the limelight with guest-starring performances in many TV shows.
TV Land: Most Memorable Male Guest Star in a Comedy as Himself, “The Brady Bunch,” 2003