Joe Namath thrilled to lend Pro Football Hall a helping hand

In this Aug. 4, 2012 file photo, Pro Football Hall of Fame member Joe Namath is introduced during induction ceremonies at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)
In this Aug. 4, 2012 file photo, Pro Football Hall of Fame member Joe Namath is introduced during induction ceremonies at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)

Joe Namath knows something about making history.

So when the Pro Football Hall of Fame asked him to cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the renovated shrine in Canton, Ohio, Namath guaranteed he’d be there.

Tagging along in early August will be, oh, 100 or so members of the hall, the largest gathering of Hall of Famers in any sport. This is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the museum, and Namath can’t wait.

“People will come from all over the country to have a great few days,” said the hero of the 1969 Super Bowl upset by the Jets over the Colts, a game that has a special place in football history — and in the hall. “The golden anniversary, with the addition of having renovated the Hall of Fame physically and having added some wonderful things for fans to take part in actively, and the memorabilia ... It will be the getting together of so many guys I have not been around for so long. This is something that’s never been done before.”

Hall officials are expecting 130 or more members to attend for the inductions of Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Larry Allen, Warren Sapp, Dave Robinson, Curley Culp and Bill Parcells. The festivities Aug. 2-4 will cap a two-year, $27 million expansion and restoration program.

Among those committed to joining Namath are such career leaders as receiver Jerry Rice, running back Emmitt Smith, defensive end Bruce Smith (sacks) and coach Don Shula (victories). Longtime Hall of Famers such as Dick Butkus, Frank Gifford, Joe Greene and Gale Sayers will be joined by more recent inductees Art Monk, Darrell Green and Shannon Sharpe — plus dozens of others.

Namath believes the Jets’ stunning 16-7 Super Bowl win was so uplifting that, 44 years later, it still resonates.

“I have given that a lot of thought over the years,” said Namath, who was inducted in 1985. “There are a whole lot of underdogs on a daily basis in all walks of life — not just in sports or in football. I think our victory was inspiring because of the way it showed an underdog can come through. ... I like to think so many people look at that game and say, ‘Those guys did it. I can overcome this. I can come through on this.’ ”

Namath is one of only four Hall members to enter as a Jet; Don Maynard, Weeb Ewbank and Curtis Martin are the others. Namath was the first player to go in from the franchise.

Ogden shares such a distinction for the Baltimore Ravens. That, and the huge celebration planned for this year, make his induction particularly special, he says.

“When you are the first of anything, you want to try to be one of the standard bearers for any organization,” Ogden said. “The fact I was able to be (General Manager) Ozzie Newsome’s first pick for the Baltimore Ravens, and the fact I was able to succeed on the football field at a high level and win a Super Bowl and help that organization become a powerhouse in the NFL, I really feel like my contributions have really been substantial. I am proud of that.”

Namath has returned to tour the hall several times on family junkets and, of course, for the inductions. He said he gets a similar thrill on every visit, but the reactions by his relatives really hit home.

“I went with my nephew and his son and was lucky enough, being in the Hall of Fame, to be afforded the chance to move around with my family and introduce them to a few folks,” he recalled. “Len Dawson, Ted Hendricks, Lem Barney, Anthony Munoz — so many great players. And the look on their faces when they met and spoke with these great players, it was wonderful.

“I can’t wait to see people experience that again this year.”