NY Jets legend Joe Klecko is one of 12 finalists for the Hall of Fame

NY Jets, Joe Klecko
NY Jets, Joe Klecko / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

NY Jets legend Joe Klecko is one step closer to earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 12-member Hall of Fame committee has selected Klecko as one of the 12 finalists to be enshrined in the senior category.

On Wednesday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame narrowed the number of candidates this year from 25 to 12. Klecko made the final cut last year, but he missed out in the end to wide receiver Cliff Branch.

The Hall of Fame plans to induct three senior candidates this year. The 12-member senior committee will meet on Aug. 16 to determine those final three entrants in the Hall of Fame.

There's a growing sense of optimism that, finally, after years of being bypassed, Joe Klecko will gain entry into the Hall of Fame. Many would argue that it is a long overdue honor for someone who was one of his generation's very best defensive players.

Some would say it's an insult that Klecko has had to gain admittance through the senior category and that his exclusion from the Hall of Fame is a sinful oversight.

Why NY Jets legend Joe Klecko belongs in the Hall of Fame

During his playing days, Joe Klecko was a defensive end, defensive tackle, and nose tackle who played 12 seasons in the NFL. Klecko made the Pro Bowl four times and the All-Pro team twice.

At his peak, Klecko had very few peers. He was a force against the run and pass. Klecko is the only player in NFL history to be elected to the Pro Bowl at three different positions, as a natural rush end, a pass-rushing defensive tackle, and a nose tackle over center stuffing the run.

The immovable run stopper, Klecko had 78 career sacks, 20 of them coming in one season in 1981 — a year in which he finished second in the AP Defensive Player of the Year voting to one of the game's greatest pass rushers Lawrence Taylor. Klecko had 20 votes. The legendary LT had 22.

History isn't always kind. And in this case, it seems to have forgotten how great Joe Klecko was as a player. Jets fans certainly haven't.

Longtime Jets fans are accustomed to exercising cautious optimism, so forgive them if they are skeptical that Joe Klecko will finally get the lifetime recognition he deserves. The expectation of him being snubbed again is a built-in crutch to brace for the potential of yet another letdown.

That's something that supporters of the green, white, and now sometimes black have experienced a lot through the years. This holds true for the team's hopes every year of entering a new season, but especially concerning one of the franchise's greatest all-around players.

Any followers of the Jets who followed Klecko during his stellar career have been screaming from the mountain tops for him to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

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The never-ending rallying cries for Joe Klecko to receive the ultimate honor of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame might finally be coming to an end. Better very late than never for the player who has always been an unofficial Hall of Famer since his career came to an end decades ago.