EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Joe Namath and his former New York Jets teammates were back together in front of the fans, 40 years after they pulled off an improbable Super Bowl victory.
The 1968 team that won the championship was honored during a halftime ceremony at the Meadowlands, where 36 former players, wearing their Jets throwbacks, were reintroduced one by one to the crowd.
``A lot of you fans remember our team and we're here to say thank you,'' Namath told the cheering fans.
All 36 Jets posed with the championship trophy one more time, something no other Jets team has been able to do since that win guaranteed by the Hall of Fame quarterback.
``It's mindboggling to a degree,'' Namath said before the ceremony. ``It doesn't feel like it's 40 years as ex-athletes. A lot of us still keep that enthusiastic football mind going, and football season seems to regenerate it. Thank goodness for the fans. This '68 championship for the Jets, they haven't let it go and we're thankful for it.''
e AFL championship, setting up a matchup with the NFL's heavily favored Baltimore Colts. Despite the talk that the Jets were a huge underdog, Namath boldly proclaimed that the Jets would win the game at the Orange Bowl in Miami on Jan. 12, 1969.
``It was the heart speaking and the feelings speaking,'' Namath said, ``and that's all and I'm glad we won.''
Coach Weeb Ewbank was told of the guarantee by Frank Ramos, the team's public relations director, as the two were driving to the media hotel the Friday before the Super Bowl. Ramos gave Ewbank a copy of the Miami Herald, which prominently displayed Namath's proclamation.
``He looks at that and said, 'Dadgummit, Joe. Why did he have to go and say that?' Ramos recalled. ``He said, 'We had them right where we wanted them.' He was really upset about that, but when we got down to the hotel, the first question they asked him was, 'What do you think about what your quarterback said?' He said, ``It ain't often my quarterback whistles Dixie.'
``He just took it in stride - until he got a hold of Joe.''
Ewbank then let his quarterback know how he felt.
``I was sincerely sorry that I upset the coach and anybody, but, hey, things worked out,'' Namath said with a grin. ``The linemen hated me for a while. They wanted to beat me up and choke me, the offensive linemen, because they were the ones who had to go in the pits against them.''
Namath, of course, made good on his guarantee, helping the Jets beat the Colts 16-7. Matt Snell ran for a touchdown, and Randy Beverly had two of the Jets' four interceptions in the victory.
``My fondest memory still lives on,'' Beverly said. ``You always see them around Super Bowl time. That's my two interceptions. If you like, I could relive them.''
The former players had a celebration at a Manhattan hotel Saturday night, when they caught up with each other and discussed the memorable moments from that incredible season all over again.
``I didn't know the significance of that game when we played,'' left tackle Winston Hill said. ``I just thought it was another big game. I never thought it would last for 40 years. ... We should do this every couple of weeks.''
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