Namath: I grew up wanting to play quarterback like ... the Babe

Talk of Fame Network

Growing up in Beaver Falls, Pa., Joe Namath followed another western Pennsylvania quarterback, John Unitas, put the NFL on the map and begin to grow pro football into America’s favorite past time. But while Namath admired Unitas and followed the Baltimore Colts, it wasn’t Johnny U. he wanted to be.

It was former Boston Patriots’ star, Babe Parilli.

“The first quarterback that I paid a whole lot of mind to was Vito ‘Babe’ Parilli, from Rochester, Pennsylvania, four miles down the river from Beaver Falls,” he said on the Talk of Fame Network’s radio broadcast. “Heck, when I was in the sixth grade I’d be going up to the five-and-ten at lunchtime to see my mother, who was working there. I left school to walk one block, and in that one block’s walk there happened to be an Army-Navy store. And I’d stop at the store on the outside and look into the window, and on the shelf there was a gold football helmet made by Hutch. And Babe Parilli had signed it.

“And, damned, don’t you know that we (the New York Jets) traded for Babe Parilli, and in ’68, in that locker room, we’re sitting together side by side through training camp and everything else. And I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to be sitting beside … and having a teammate … of Babe Parilli. Boy, that was cool.”

Of course, Namath also relives Super Bowl III and tells Ron, Rick and Clark why he felt so good about the Jets that he “guaranteed” a victory over Baltimore, a club that lost just once that season (to Cleveland) and was a 18-point favorite.

“I was confident,” he said, “because I knew how good our team was and how good we could be. I was just very confident because our team had performed so well in getting to that Super Bowl.

“Let’s say Baltimore was overconfident … and they had every right to be. They beat Cleveland, 34-0, in the (NFL) championship game, and that’s the only team they lost to that season. They were touted as the best defensive unit that ever played. And I think they believed that. They may have been in a comfort zone so much that they lost that damned bit of urgency that you need to operate as quickly and efficiently as you can.”