Recently, my wife and I had dinner with new neighbors, and Johnny Sample’s name entered into the conversation.
At one time, Sample had been friends with the couple, and there were many kind words showered upon him.
I was too young to know anything about the cornerback during his playing days with the Jets, but I researched him later being a diehard Jets’ fan. As I got older and started a dream job in Philadelphia in the media, I had the opportunity to meet him and then see him on a regular basis.
Sample wrote the book, “Confessions of a Dirty Ballplayer” that was published in 1970, two years after he retired after winning the Super Bowl with the Jets. Sample was a straight-shooter who certainly did throw some punches. He would tell you some stories about his Jets’ days.
The well-dressed, amiable man with the barrel chest and wide, welcoming smile, always was friendly and had a few minutes for some small talk or an extended conversation. After football, Sampel developed a prosperous tennis career as player, linesman, and umpire in the Philadelphia area and abroad.
In Philly, Sample entered the media world as a successful radio talk-show host. Sample passed away in 2005, and the Philly media lost a good one.
Sample and many others have passed from the fabled 1969 Jets’ championship team that still can send some Super Bowl football reverberations. Don Maynard and Pete Lammons were the latest ones to join the others that departed for Jets’ football heaven. Like the Mets, they were a true New York and world-wide underdog. Their mark is a bit tarnished over the years, but it still can hold a shine.
It has been 53 years and counting for the Jets since they captured their lone Super Bowl title in 1969.
Bill Parcells and Rex Ryan managed to bring their team close, but it proved to be one of many frustrating endings.
Still, the 1969 team championship shouldn’t be forgotten. The collection of superstars, role players, and possible upcoming stars meshed together for a miraculous run that ended in an afternoon in Miami.
Head coach Robert Saleh, quarterback Zach Wilson, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, and wide receiver Elijan Moore are cornerstones toward another title.
Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow, who was drafted the same year as Wilson, has proved a young team can quickly round into a Super Bowl contender. How many people knew who Bengals’ head coach Zac Taylor was before this weekend? Honestly, not many did.
These Jets will have money to speed in the offseason, and they need to draft wisely. They have what appears to be a solid head coach in Saleh, and some building blocks.Will these Jets be in the Super Bowl next year? Probably not.
The future finally looks bright, but let’s not forget the past.
The 69’ jJets had the flamboyant and talented Namath and the running tandem of Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer behind him with the likes of John Schmitt, Randy Rasmussen, Dave Herman, Winston Hill, and Bob Talmini. Maynard and the gazelle-like George Sauer were the perfect wide receiver tandem with Lammons at tight end.
Maynard coud run the slant as good as anyone in the league, but he also has deceiving deep speed and caught plnety of home runs balls from Maynard. Sauer was today’s typical slot receiver, and he also could turn it up field.
Snell was a grinder, and Boozer emerged a slot back who was a effective as a receiver.
Gerry Philbin and John Elliott anchored the defensive line along with Paul Rochester and Verlon Biggs, and Al Atkinson, Ralph Baker, and Larry Grantham were as solid a linebacking corps as any other one in the league. The 32-year-old Sample led a young secondary with Randy Beverly, Jim Hudson , and Bill Baird.
Kicker Jim Turner and punter Curly Johnson were a consistent duo. The low profile players off the bench were the perfect role players to bring it all together.
Weeb Ewbank was the perfect mentor. Clive Rush was teh offensive coordinator, and Buddy Ryan directed the defensive line.
The Bengals and Rams will tee-it-up Sunday evening for football’s 56th annual showcase. It has all the making of the great game with the Bengals’ destined run and the Rams’ fulfilled potential with Odell Bekham Jr having a chance to finally get his much-predicted Super Bowl ring.
I like the Rams, but the Bengals with the four or four-plus points.
More importantly, don’t forget the ‘69 Jets. They were the inaugural Cinderalls to the ball, and set the trend for the last 53 years.
The Jets set New York on its ear, and the memories should always be with us.