Joe Namath Talks Tights, Salt, and Who's Styling Now

Former Jets quarterback and Super Bowl III hero reflects on food memories and style
Joe Namath Jets
Joe Namath

Namath on Alabama barbecue: "Going back into the '60s, we used to get some amazing barbecue in a little town in Northport, Ala. It didn’t even have a name. A man owned it and it was in the alleyway. He cooked in the alleyway."

For all their glory, even the four championships that the Giants have won over the past four decades and the personalities of the coaches and athletes who made them happen don’t quite come close to matching the style and cool of the New York quarterback who made and delivered on one of the most epic guarantees of all time.

For that Super Bowl III success over the Colts in 1969, Joe Namath will always be loved by Jets fans and New Yorkers. So it’s great fun for New Yorkers to catch up with him, which they did on Pier 92 at 52nd Street with Mario Batali during the 2013 New York City Wine & Food Festival Jets + Chefs: The Ultimate Tailgate event. "It’s all about cooking out," Namath explained. "Sharing food, and bonding through the process of putting together great cookout meals. Football is part of it and just having a good time, man."

It's a pretty good time just talking with this Super Bowl legend and a treat to interview him, which The Daily Meal did during the festival, touching on food-related topics ranging from the iconic food moments from his childhood and his time at the University of Alabama and after his Super Bowl success, to his thoughts on Coach Bear Bryant. While the 2013 Jets team is out of the playoffs, they'll still be hosting this year's MetLife Stadium-bound Super Bowl at the 50 Yard Lounge, a food- and drink-themed event space showcasing chefs and Jets players from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2.

So no better time to talk to Broadway Joe and find out who in the NFL today he thinks best carries on his great tradition for style and flair, and hey, if he ever still wears pantyhose.[related]

Growing up in Beaver Falls, Pa., were there any famous restaurants or any particular restaurants, sandwich shops, or corner food shops of any kind that particularly stand out in your memory as the town's iconic spots, or just places you really loved growing up?
You know, what may have been iconic as a teenager, might not be as iconic to the folks back home now, and you have to remember, that basically back in those days, I ate at home. You had to spend money to eat out. And that wasn’t the normal routine. It was different when I grew older and I had some change. In the evenings, you know how you get those after-dinner snacks with the boys… all the hot sausage, pizza, and sandwiches, also there was a place that had some great hot dogs. Other than that man, I didn’t get to eat out that much.

But if you had to pin down the name of one place?
Oh boy, I’d be guessing one of the placed sounded like B&B pizza, but I wouldn’t stake my life on that. On anything actually.

Do you remember any standout food joints from your days at the University of Alabama? Are there any barbecue joints or other favorite spots that have a warm place in your heart that deserve a shout out whether they're closed or still open?
Yeah, the Full Moon BBQ is an outstanding spot for sure. It’s been around a number of years. Now going back into the '60s, we used to get some amazing barbecue in a little town in Northport, Ala. It didn’t even have a name. A man owned it and it was in the alleyway. He cooked in the alleyway. I don’t remember his name, unfortunately. But that was another case, similar to what I mentioned before because in college we didn’t get out. We didn’t have to pay for the training table food, you know what I mean? We were fed pretty well there. In the summer times I’d stay and work. And I’d hit that barbecue spot in Northport. But Arthur, we’re going back to the days where you’d get a $104 ticket for the week and that could take you through seven days of eating. And that was with eating at Morrison's café and I don’t know if they’re still there or not, but they were throughout the South. A dollar something and change and you’d get a whole meal."My television watching with my dad... we’d watch Death Valley Days, that old western, and when it went to a commercial, I’d get running to the kitchen for a glass of water and my snack, which was a half a head of lettuce that my mother would dress with white vinegar and salt."

For all the buzz around your amazing sense of style and flair, you were also known for being very serious about your craft and having a serious training regimen. How did food play into that regimen? Did you have a go-to eating and snacking regime while you were training?
I thought I did. I tell you, Arthur, we’re much farther ahead in the game in terms of taking care of ourselves now. Back when I was playing ball, it wasn’t what you ate, it was worrying about how much you ate. The guys my size just took care of being able to endure. You had to be able to have the stamina to get through a game. And I would always train. But at the University of Alabama, we would take a half a year off. There was no such thing as having a training room in team headquarters. I had teammates during the season that had second jobs — they were going to work and going to practice.

Was it any different for you?
I was lucky being a bonus baby, so to speak, so where my focus was on the football, but heck, we didn’t know from nutrition and proper diet. I have often wondered what would have been if I’d known then what I know now. Heck, Sunday before the game for a 1 p.m. kickoff I would have a cup of coffee and a piece of toast maybe with a little honey. Guess what, when I started taking care of my own physiology, I started to understand… I mean, what in the heck kind of fuel did I have powering my body between three and four o’clock, when I hadn’t had one bite of food all day, and the most I’d had to eat was a piece of toast? We just didn’t know, Arthur.

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And this was just the way things were for everyone?
I didn’t get a drink of water on the football field until my senior year in college. The trainers didn’t know anything back then in terms of replenishing the liquids we would lose. This goes back to high school when there wasn’t any water out there. There was a bucket of water during the actual game, but never during practice. We were just learning back then. Science was catching up as we went along. Thank goodness we’re learning how to take care of things better now.