In this series, we’ll be highlighting a different player from the New York Jets’ storied past. Today, we take a look at defensive lineman Joe Klecko.
If Klecko had played more of his career during the modern era, when sacks were actually an official stat, he’d likely be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame by now. But while his career stat sheet only shows 24 sacks over 12 seasons (11 of them with the Jets) and 155 games, Jets fans know better.
So did his opponents.
Anyone who ever had the displeasure of lining up against Klecko wasn’t likely to forget the encounter. His physical playing style and nonstop motor made him one of the league’s most formidable front-line defenders, helping him earn four Pro Bowl nods and first-team All-Pro twice.
He was the consensus Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, after he racked up an unofficial 20.5 sacks as a member of the famed “New York Sack Exchange.”
A member of the Jets’ “Ring of Honor,” Klecko had his No. 73 jersey retired by the team in 2004. His is one of just five players in franchise history to have his jersey number retired, joining quarterback Joe Namath, running back Curtis Martin, wide receiver Don Maynard and defensive lineman Dennis Byrd.
A sixth-round pick out of Temple in the 1977 NFL draft, Klecko was a two-time all-conference pick for the Owls, leading the team in tackles in each of his last three seasons.