Jets Ring of Honor Profile- Defensive Lineman Joe Klecko


Former Jets Great Joe Klecko

We are starting a new off-season series here at the Jet Press. Every Thursday night we are going to profile a member of the Jets Ring of Honor. Tonight, we are going to start with a personal favorite of mine, Joe Klecko.

Joe Klecko was born October 15, 1953 in Chester, Pa., and played his high school ball for St. James Catholic High School for Boys in his hometown. Before heading off to Temple University for his college career, he actually played semi-pro football, under an assumed name. He played in the Seaboard Football League for the Aston Knights as “Jim Jones” from Poland University, in order to play and keep his college eligibility. Pretty creative, huh?

Off to Temple University. He received conference rookie of the week honors Oct 27, 1973 for a game where Klecko amassed 5 sacks and 15 tackles. During his last 3 seasons at Temple, he led the team in tackles, and main the All-East team twice. He received mention for All-American as a junior and senior, and was inducted to the Temple Hall of Fame in 1987.

He arrived in the NFL in 1977 with the Jets, selected with the Jets’ 6th round pick, the 144th overall. He was drafted as a defensive end, and although the Jets finished with a disappointing 3-11 record in 1977, Klecko recorded 8 sacks in his rookie campaign, even though sacks weren’t an official stat yet.(Sacks were counted officially beginning in 1982)

The big leap was taken by Klecko an the Jets in 1979, when he and Abdul Salaam were joined by Mark Gastineau, and formed what became known as the “New York Sack Exchange”, and what was feared as one of the best defensive lines in the NFL at the time. The group came into their own in 1981, when they recorded 66.5 sacks, 20.5 by Klecko, leading to his first All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections. In 1982, the year the Jets made a run at the Super Bowl before losing the AFC Championship game to Miami, Klecko injured his right knee during the second game of the season, leading to knee problems that would ultimately end his playing career in 1988.

Joe Klecko moved inside to tackle in 1983, and he excelled there as well, earning Pro Bowl trips in 1983 and 1984. In 1985, Klecko moved to his third position, Nose Tackle, and his excellent play did not stop. He led the team with 96 tackles and 5 forced fumbles, and tied for second on the team with 7.5 sacks. His play earned him his second All-Pro selection and another Pro Bowl trip, making him the second player ever, after Frank Gifford, to make the Pro Bowl at three different positions.

Yet Klecko is not enshrined in Canton. Very very sad.

The Jets released Joe Klecko after a 1986 season where they finished 6-9. He played one more year with the Indianapolis Colts before retiring to due his troubles with his knees.

The Jets retired his #73 jersey in 2004, and he was part of the inaugural Ring of Honor class in 2010. He currently is an analyst for SNY tv here in NY.

He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, there is no other way to say it. To be that versatile, be at the top of this game at 3 different positions is something you just don’t see every day. He was a scary guy to face on the field. Will give you a couple of quotes from former Klecko opponents.

Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure added that “You can’t think of his ten year period without him. I had to block Joe Greene and Merlin Olsen when I was playing and, believe me, Joe Klecko was equal to those two guys. If Joe Klecko had played one position for ten years, he’d have been considered one of the top two or three players at that position, whichever one it was. There’s not another player who went to the Pro Bowl at three different positions. You take a defensive end and put him at nose tackle and he’s just as good there, that’s a great player. We need to get Joe Klecko in the Hall of Fame.”

Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Munoz said about Klecko, “In my 13 seasons, Joe is right there at the top of the defensive ends I had to block, up there with Fred Dean, Lee Roy Selmon and Bruce Smith. Joe was the strongest guy I ever faced. He had perfect technique — hands in tight, great leverage. My second year, 1981, we went to Shea and beat the Jets, 31-30, but he was such an intense, smart player, I knew I was in a battle. He was the leader, the guy who kept that unit together.”

Our first Ring of Honor spotlight, Joe Klecko. His opponents believe it. His performance bears it out. He belongs in the Hall of Fame, it’s ridiculous that he isn’t there.

What are your thoughts on Joe Klecko, Jets fans?  Please comment below.

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