Bill Rademacher was a sterling special teams player in 1968 after never making it in the secondary or as a receiver on the New York Jets. Here’s a look at his memory and why he might have never been a star on the team but always contributed every chance he could.
There was little commotion anywhere in the sports community when Bill Rademacher died April 2, another victim of CTE-related dementia. Bill was one of the 45 men who played for the Super Bowl II New York Jets roster, but he wasn’t a star. From 1964 to 1967, he just tried to hang on and show enough to make the Jets roster fulltime. But most of his time those seasons were spent on the Jets’ taxi squad, meaning he toiled in the Atlantic Coast Football League.
He played defensive back and wide receiver, but Bill didn’t shine at either the way Jets head coach Weeb Ewbank expected. In 1965, Weeb evaluated Rademacher based on his ACFL play and practice time and felt he had average speed and quickness. There was a chance he might play free safety but he had a long journey ahead to play on defense. At the time, Weeb didn’t even care for his decent play on special teams.
Many times between 1964-1967, injuries left the Jets a man-short, and Bill was activated for a few games, here or there, as an emergency fill in. Rademacher participated in Jets’ practices, even stayed late to run patterns and make catches after practice as a favor to Joe Namath. He never showed Ewbank or the position coaches enough to be taken seriously as a potential starter at any position, but Bill refused to give up his hopes–and the Jets saw something in him that kept them inviting him to training camp.
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At last, Rademacher’s special teams’ play reached a sufficient level in 1968 that earned him a spot on the 40-man roster. He made a few tackles in Super Bowl III, a contribution not to be understated.
Most football fans never have the appropriate regard for the bold and brash players who put their bodies and brains on the line on special teams. Rules and regulations were fewer on special teams in the 1960s, so the risks facing Rademacher were even greater.
It’s a sad moment anytime a former Jets player passes away. There is even more reason to pause when a member of the Super Bowl-winning Jets roster dies. But I find it especially distressing when a selfless contributor to the 1968-69 Jets, like Bill Rademacher, leaves us because for most fans it is almost as if Rademacher never existed.
You had to be a Jets fan in 1968 to remember the name Bill Rademacher. I’ve had the opportunity to check into the career of Bill Rademacher for an important project, so I recognize his role on the only Super Bowl championship in Jets’ history. The challenge of playing special teams, how little he was paid and his love for the game and the Jets cannot be emphasized enough. Another player could have taken Bill’s spot on the team, but no one else can claim they would have made the plays that he made.
Like Rademacher, the tackles and blocks he made that super season are nearly anonymous. Yet, Jets fans can revel in that Super Bowl Jets team because of players like him. Rest in peace, Bill.