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By: Rivka Boord
It took three decades, but Klecko is finally where he belongs
For New York Jets fans, one of the top questions surrounding media week prior to the Super Bowl has been, “Why isn’t Joe Klecko in the Hall of Fame?”
After 30 years of waiting, Klecko is finally taking his rightful place in Canton. He joins a first-ballot Jets electee in Darrelle Revis, connecting the team’s dominant New York Sack Exchange defensive line with Revis Island™️ and the Rex Ryan defenses of 2009-10.
Who better to welcome Klecko to the Hall of Fame than the most prominent Jets player of them all?
“Hey, honey. @RealJoeNamath came to lunch!”– Joe Klecko
Hall of Fame Knocks: Welcome to Canton➡️Saturday at 8:00 PM (EST) on @nflnetwork. pic.twitter.com/zECPwEAtTD
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) February 12, 2023
Many players become overwhelmed with emotion when told that they’ve made it to the most exclusive NFL club. Klecko, though, reacted with exhilaration.
Klecko recently joined Mike Francesa on his podcast to discuss the experience. He explained that after years of waiting, first on the modern-era ballot and then on the senior circuit, he stopped getting his hopes up. To see Joe Namath at his front door was the culmination of years of unfulfilled dreams.
That epic line—”Hey, honey, Joe Namath came to lunch!”—should become part of Jets lore.
Klecko has always been a Jets legend. He was the leader of one of the NFL’s greatest defensive lines, so dominant that it was deserving of its own moniker in The New York Sack Exchange.
While Mark Gastineau may have grabbed the headlines and raised some hackles, it was Klecko who was the backbone of that group that also included current Jets’ radio color commentator Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam. Klecko was an All-Pro at two different positions and made the Pro Bowl at three (nose tackle, defensive end, and defensive tackle).
Klecko and Gastineau are the only pair of teammates ever to record 20 sacks in the same season, doing so in 1981. They also did not like each other, as Klecko acknowledged.
Klecko told Francesa that he sees some of his own team and defensive line in the current group of Jets, whose talent, as demonstrated by their dual Rookie of the Year honors, has not quite been matched in the win-loss column.
The Richard Todd Jets made the AFC Championship Game in 1982, and the Ken O’Brien outfit continuously underperformed expectations. Strong players such as Freeman McNeil, Wesley Walker, Al Toon, and Mickey Shuler never quite made it over the hump despite chances in 1985-86.
Of course, the ’80s-era Jets will always be remembered for who they were not led by: Dan Marino, who was on the board when the Jets selected O’Brien with the 24th pick in the 1983 draft.
Klecko has been chronically underrated over the years. His unofficial career sack count is 78, which is strong for a mainly-interior defensive lineman but does not automatically scream Canton. However, two Hall of Fame offensive linemen paid No. 73 the ultimate compliment.
Anthony Munoz, the Bengals’ offensive tackle, and Dwight Stephenson, the Dolphins’ center, two of the best offensive linemen to play during Klecko’s era, said that he was the best and strongest defensive lineman they ever had to face.
Joe DeLamielleure, the Hall of Fame guard, told the voters about Klecko, “Who the heck cares which position he played? He dominated all of them!”
Klecko told Francesa that those comments alone were highly gratifying for him aside from any Hall of Fame consideration.
Congratulations to Klecko for finally getting over the hump. His Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony will rightly be lit up with Green and White.
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Originally posted on Jets X-Factor