NY Jets legend Joe Klecko was finally enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year as part of the Class of 2023. It was a long time coming for one of the greatest Jets in franchise history, and it still sometimes doesn't feel real to him.
Klecko recalls laying in bed with his wife a few days after the ceremony that saw him permanently enshrined within the walls of Canton. It was around 3 am. Klecko woke up, turned to his wife, and said, "Honey, did you know I made the Hall of Fame?"
It's an honor that was undoubtedly deserved for an era-defining superstar, but it's never one that Klecko ever anticipated actually happening. "It was never really expected," Klecko insisted. "If it's not God's time, it's not God's time."
Today, there is no doubt about Klecko's place in the NFL's annals. He's earned his place among the immortals in this sport's history. And at this stage, he's just looking to give back.
Klecko recently partnered with the NFL Alumni Association to help promote their new campaign titled Tackle Obesity. The campaign is aimed at inspiring personal action, engagement, and accountability among fans and former players living with obesity.
"It’s not easy for us as ex-athletes to identify with any problems," Klecko told me. "It’s an embarrassing thing to look at. Whether they’ve been out one year or 30 years, they still feel that they are athletes. It can be hard to admit you have a problem.”
That's why the NFLA is doing what it can to spread awareness about this issue that affects many former athletes, particularly football players.
“There’s help for you," Klecko said. "There are professionals to help you. There are drugs out there that can help you fight your obesity problem. It just takes a little bit of nudging to identify with [your problem].”
Joe Klecko is bullish on the NY Jets roster
Klecko is also aware of just how talented the current Jets' roster is. His playing career may be in the past, but he's still very much a fan of the organization. He has high hopes for a number of players on the Jets' roster.
Klecko believes that two players, in particular, on this Jets roster could one day follow in his footsteps and end up in the Hall of Fame. The multi-time All-Pro made sure to praise wide receiver Garrett Wilson and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.
Klecko not only praised Wilson's ability on the field, but he was very complimentary of his character as well. "[Garrett] Wilson is such a great receiver," Klecko said. "I love the way he talks and presents himself. He’s a pro from the word go. He’s very humble.”
As a former defensive tackle himself, Klecko has somewhat taken Williams under his wing. The two had a chance to speak at the Jets' luncheon earlier this year, and Klecko couldn't have been more laudatory about the Jets' star defensive lineman.
Klecko called Williams "a stud" on the field, and insisted he was one of the nicest, most humble guys he had spoken to. If you ask Klecko, both Wilson and Williams have the talent and mindset to be future Hall of Famers.
"They have a great careers ahead of them, and they have the right attitude," Klecko said.
Joe Klecko talks about Joe Namath's controversial comments
Klecko also had a unique perspective to share on the recent comments made by fellow Jets Hall of Famer Joe Namath. While Klecko and Namath never played together, the two know each other very well.
Namath was the one who gave Klecko his famous Hall of Fame knock earlier this year. They've formed a special bond over the years and remain close.
Klecko admitted that he was "surprised" by Namath's comments. He believes they came from a place of frustration and that Namath regrets what he said.
"I know this as a fact," Klecko insisted. "If Joe had to do it over, he would have recanted that right away." "Joe’s not that type of guy. He’s never been this harsh. I was very surprised [by] it.”
Klecko believes that Namath's comments were due to frustration over the unfortunate series of events that have taken place at Florham Park over the last few weeks. This is a team that had Super Bowl expectations, and within just four plays, those expectations were all but stripped away.
Joe Klecko on Aaron Rodgers' injury
Of course, those expectations were altered by what is likely a season-ending torn Achilles suffered by Aaron Rodgers in Week 1. Klecko knows all too well what it's like to rehab from a serious injury.
The Temple product famously suffered a serious knee injury that sidelined him for most of the 1982 season. He was able to return in time for the playoffs, but the rehab process was a long and grueling one.
His injury was different than the one Rodgers suffered, but he was able to provide some insight into what it's like for a pro athlete to recover from a serious injury.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he doesn't want to end his career like this," Klecko told me. "He's not walking out into the sunset like John Wayne here."
Klecko seems pretty sure that Rodgers isn't ready to call it quits just yet. He offered up some optimism as well when comparing the injury to the one he suffered back in 1982.
"I know it’s a tough injury, but I came back and played in four months after a patellar tendon rupture," Klecko said. "Mine was torn in half. I still regained my flexibility and strength. This is what he has now. My guess is you’ll see him next year in camp, and he’ll be fine."
From a little-known sixth-round pick in the 1977 NFL Draft to one of the greatest players in franchise history, it's been a long and storied road for Joe Klecko — a road that has finally taken him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
30 years of waiting led him to this moment. As Joe would say, it was finally God's time.