Joe Klecko at Temple with coach Wayne Hardin
|Born||October 15, 1953
|NFL Draft||1977 / Round: 6 / Pick: 144|
|Stats at NFL.com|
|Career highlights and awards|
Joseph Edward "Joe" Klecko (born October 15, 1953) is a former American football player as a defensive lineman for the New York Jets from 1977 to 1987, and the Indianapolis Colts in 1988. He co-anchored the Jets formidable defensive line known as the "New York Sack Exchange" with Mark Gastineau, Abdul Salaam and Marty Lyons. The four combined for 66 sacks in 1981, including a league-leading 20.5 by Klecko, who was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year by the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA). Klecko is second to Gastineau on the Jets all-time leading sack leaders (as of the 2009-2010 season).
Klecko was born in Chester, Pennsylvania. He played at Temple under legendary college coach Wayne Hardin (the former Navy coach who coached 2 Heisman Trophy winners in Bellino '60 and Staubach '63). While at Temple University, Klecko also played semi-pro football for the Aston (Pa.) Knights and kept his eligibility by playing under an assumed name (Jim Jones) and a fake university (Poland University). He also won two NCAA club boxing titles in the heavyweight division. Klecko played high school football at St. James Catholic High School for Boys in Chester, Pa.
On December 26, 2004, during a halftime ceremony, the Jets honored Klecko by retiring his #73 jersey. Klecko became just the third New York Jet to have his number retired, joining Hall of Fame QB Joe Namath and Hall of Fame WR Don Maynard. He was the first player in professional football history to be selected to the Pro Bowl at three different positions (DE, DT and NT). However, while Klecko has been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame several times, he has not yet been enshrined.
Hall of Fame center Dwight Stephenson, in describing Klecko as a "great defensive lineman", considered him one of the two best interior linemen he had ever faced. Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Munoz said this about Klecko, "In my 13 seasons, Joe is right there at the top of the defensive ends I had to block, up there with Fred Dean, Lee Roy Selmon and Bruce Smith." "Joe was the strongest guy I ever faced." "He had perfect technique — hands in tight, great leverage. My second year, 1981, we went to Shea and beat the Jets, 31-30, but he was such an intense, smart player, I knew I was in a battle. He was the leader, the guy who kept that unit together."
Hall of Fame guard Joe DeLamielleure added that "You can’t think of his 10-year period without him." "I had to block Joe Greene and Merlin Olsen when I was playing and, believe me, Joe Klecko was equal to those two guys." "If Joe Klecko had played one position for 10 years, he’d have been considered one of the top two or three players at that position, whichever one it was." "There’s not another player who went to the Pro Bowl at three different positions. You take a defensive end and put him at nose tackle and he’s just as good there, that’s a great player. We need to get Joe Klecko in the Hall of Fame."
Klecko had small roles in three Burt Reynolds films: Cannonball Run, Heat, and Smokey and the Bandit II. He also appeared on EWTN Life On The Rock show. Among other pursuits, he is a member of Catholic Athletes for Christ and speaks on the subject of manhood and faith.
He currently fabricates metal stairs in the Tri-State Area.