January 2, 1965: "Bear" Bryant called Joe William Namath the best player he ever coached at the University of Alabama. And apparently New York Jets owner Sonny Werblin was willing to do whatever it took to get him. On this day in 1965, Werblin signed the Alabama quarterback Joe Namath to a contract reportedly worth $427,000, which was the highest rookie contract in pro football history.
The St. Louis Cardinals selected Namath twelfth overall in the NFL draft, while the Jets selected him with the first overall pick of the AFL draft, and Namath elected to sign with the Jets the day after Alabama won the Orange Bowl.
Namath earned the nickname "Broadway Joe" that summer from teammate Sherman Plunkett after he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
All Namath did to earn that rookie contract was win AFL rookie of the year in 1965. And all Namath did in his career was lead the Jets to their first Super Bowl against the Baltimore Colts in the famous guarantee speech game in 1969. He was a two-time AFL MVP with the Jets.
In today's NFL, the largest NFL contract for a rookie is Sam Bradford, 6 years, $76 million. Here is a list of top 10 rookie contracts in NFL history.
Here's to you, Broadway Joe: