The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project running through mid-July detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.
The white fur coat might have been his most famous accessory, but the knee brace was Broadway Joe’s most important.
All the history Joe Namath made for the New York Jets, after all, depended on him playing on those wonky knees. His right knee was already gimpy when he signed his superstar-making $427,000 contract (record-setting money in those days) as the No. 1 pick in the 1965 AFL draft. Just a few weeks later, Jets team orthopedist James Nicholas operated on Namath for the first time, to fix the injury he’d suffered during his senior season at Alabama. Nicholas fashioned a special brace to protect Namath’s knee, with the help of the Lenox Hill Hospital’s brace shop, and told the rookie quarterback he might be able to play four years.
Namath went on to play 13 seasons, though his knee problems only got worse—he needed four operations during his time with the Jets (two on each knee) and years later had a double knee replacement. That fourth season, though, did end up being significant: That was 1968, the year Namath made his famous guarantee to upset the Colts in Super Bowl III—still the Jets’ only championship.
— Jenny Vrentas
Photo courtesy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame