Winston Hill was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame two weeks ago. Those around the New York Jets are now hopeful that Hill will be joined by Joe Klecko.
One of the top defensive ends of the 1980s, Klecko is seemingly overlooked every year by the Hall of Fame, this despite a career that was dominant. Nearly every offensive lineman who faced Klecko during his 12-year career, 11 seasons of which were spent with the Jets, raves about his play. He is a member of the Jets ‘Ring of honor’ as well as being the third player to have his number retired by the franchise.
And while the NFL didn’t officially recognize sacks as a statistic until 1982 when Klecko was entering his sixth season, he still was an undeniably strong and resilient player, one of the stars of the ‘New York Sack Exchange’ that keyed a successful spell of several playoff appearances for the Jets.
Wesley Walker, a star wide receiver on the Jets who was a second round pick in the 1977 NFL Draft (Klecko was taken four rounds later), lobbies for Klecko to eventually get enshrined in the hall. His teammate, he says, undeniably deserves the honor.
“I think he deserves it. Joe Klecko is one of the best players I’ve ever been around. I tell people [that] if I had a vote for the Hall of Fame, he’d be at the top of my list just for what he brought. You just admire how he can tie up two blockers – he was that good. His physicality. He had this awkward stance, this cock stance. And I just admire him, Mark Gastineau…really that whole ‘Sack Exchange.’ It is reported that he is long overdue and I’m sure he will get it,” Walker said.
“A lot of people don’t know what athletes bring to the table because they didn’t play in the Super Bowl or win Most Valuable Player if you or aren’t on a winning team.”
Walker, twice a Pro Bowl selection, was one of the best wide receivers of his generation. He knows firsthand that a player can suffer from perception issues and he thinks that Klecko might be in the shadows a bit, even as his teammates and opponents alike vouch for his impact and ability. Off the field issues as well might be hurting Klecko but that shouldn’t hamper his numbers and impact as one of the best pass rushers in the 80s.
If Klecko’s career is held up to the light, then Walker believes his former teammate will be Canton-bound.
“Hopefully one day you’ll get that recognition, but it’s not for me to say. There’s a lot of people out there that don’t know Klecko. It’s unfortunate that not everybody can get in,” Walker said. “I’m not even sure how they go about it. It’s not just longevity or Super Bowls, there is more that goes into it.”