When Tua Tagovailoa hears his name called Thursday during the first round of the 2020 NFL draft, he will be on his way to fame like fellow Alabama alums Bart Starr and Ken Stabler found. Whether he can have as much fun along the way as Joe Namath remains to be seen.
Namath had a Hall of Fame pro career, cemented the most important merger in American sports history by making good on an outlandish guarantee, and has gone on to a retirement full of fun and mischief.
Joe Namath was always headline material as a player
Beginning with his 29-4 record as the starting quarterback at Alabama and a 1964 national championship with the Crimson Tide, Joe Namath was constantly in the news during his football career.
Namath was drafted in the first round by both the NFL and AFL on Nov. 28, 1954, but turned down the St. Louis Cardinals to sign with the New York Jets the day after the Orange Bowl for an unprecedented $427,000 over three years. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated the following summer and the “Broadway Joe” nickname would follow Namath throughout his career.
By the time the Jets played the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969, the merger between the NFL and AFL had already been agreed upon and scheduled to take effect with the 1970 season. Once Namath guaranteed a victory over the heavily favored opponent from the more established league and then made good with a 16-7 upset, the consolidation became viewed as a merger of equals and sent the league down a path of 50 years of growth.
Joe Namath remained a drawing card throughout his career, but his numbers were not as big as his personality. Just 64-64-2 as a starter and the quarterback of three divisional champions, Namath threw more interceptions (220) than touchdowns (173) in a 13-year career that ended with the Los Angeles Rams.
The Jets quarterback was also a star off the field
Joe Namath dabbled in seemingly everything off the field, with the advertising industry most in love with him because of his good looks, swagger, and perennial label as a most eligible bachelor. His endorsements of Noxzema shaving cream, Ovaltine milk mix, and Hanes pantyhose made him inescapable for TV audiences. Now 76, Namath is a pitchman for Helpline, a Medicare insurance company.
Throw in the Fu Manchu mustache and full-length fur coat frequently captured in pictures, and that explains how a panel assembled by The Associated Press last fall tabbed Namath as the NFL’s greatest character.
Namath’s other endeavors off the field included a TV and film career. His 11 big-screen credits include C.C. and Company in 1970 with Ann-Margaret. He also appeared in sitcom and variety shows on TV and guest-hosted The Tonight Show for Johnny Carson.
Joe Namath’s net worth makes for a comfortable retirement
Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath’s life hasn’t been without problems. His on-air interview with ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber, during which he announced “I want to kiss you,” prompted Namath to enter an alcoholism treatment program in early 2004.
Namath was married to the former Deborah Mays for 15 years before they divorced in 2000, after which the couple’s two daughters lived with him in Florida.
It helps that he probably has never had to buy a meal in New York City, where Jets fans ache for another championship, but Namath’s wealth puts him in the red zone – and we don’t mean red ink — of retirement life. Various estimates put his net worth in the range of $17 million to $18 million.