Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Hall of Fame Senior Nominee—Joe Klecko

 By John Turney 
Art credit: Duane Potosky
Joe Klecko's versatility was noteworthy. In his four Pro Bowl appearances three of them were at different positions along the defensive line. That ability to excel anywhere along the line likely allowed him to emerge from the Hall of Fame Seniors Committee. That, and some great testimonials from his opponents add to his Hall of Fame case and he undoubtedly will be voted in by the full committee next January. 

In 1981 he was All-Pro and a Pro Bowler as a right defensive end. In 1983 and 1984 he was a Pro Bowler as a 4-3 defensive tackle. And in 1985 he was All-Pro and a Pro Bowler as a tilted nose tackle. Additionally, he was Second-team All-AFC in 1978-79 and 1986. In 1978 he was a 3-4 defensive end making four positions he received post-season honors.

In 1981 he was the NEA Defensive Player of the Year and was second in the voting for the AP Defensive Player of the year, second in the voting to Lawrence Taylor. Klecko also led the NFL (unofficially) with 20½ sacks that season as he was a vital cog in the Jets playoff appearances in that season.

The Temple star ended his career with 76 sacks and was a good kick blocker early in his career blocking five placekicks in his first three seasons. In 1985, the season he moved to nose tackle in Bud Carson's 3-4 defense he had 7½ sacks and forced five fumbles, and in an era of great nose tackles he beat them out for All-Pro honors that season.

Klecko was the glue of the New York Sack Exchange, the leader, the one who set the tone for the defense and his fellow linemates—Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons, and Abdul Salaam. After he hurt a knee in 1982 Klecko moved inside to defensive tackle and was the one who had to often cover run plays since surpeme pass rusher Mark Gastineau was all about getting to the quarterback and not always conscientious in playing the run.

Hall of Fame center Dwight Stephenson said Klecko was a "great defensive lineman", and considered him one of the two best interior linemen he had ever faced. Stephenson added, "He was a dominating and devastating lineman. He really was. No one played the game better than him."

High praise.

Here is some more high praise—
All-time great Anthony Muñoz also added praise for 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". Munoz continued, "Joe was the strongest guy I ever faced, He had perfect technique but he was such an intense, smart player."

The praise keeps coming— 
"I think it's time for Joe Klecko to get that nod. I really believe that," said Howie Long. In a lot of ways, Klecko is like Howie Long and Hall of Famer Dan Hampton—versatile guys who played more than one position well. Both Long and Hampton played inside, on the nose and outside as defensive ends. They were complete defensive linemen.

In 1981 Paul Zimmerman wrote in Sports Illustrated, "Klecko's attributes include tremendous quickness off the ball, great strength and a boxer's instinct for knocking away an opponent's hands and beating him to the inside position. And, says Green Bay Coach Bart Starr, Klecko has "something within him that flames very hot."

Klecko stands to almost certainly be inducted into the Hall of Fame after the full committee meets prior to the Super Bowl in 2023. That committee rarely votes down the Seniors Committee nominees.

“Listen, to be elected into the Hall of Fame has to be the piece de resistance in your career,” Klecko told The Athletic in a 2090 article. Now, in all likelihood, Klecko has that final event of his NFL playing days.

Klecko's career stats—


  1. From Brian wolf ...

    Congratulations to Joe Klecko. A true blue collar player ...

  2. well deserving selection

  3. About time they are going to put a Jet defender in. 1st Jet defensive player ever after 60 years!! HOF bias against mediocre teams , it is easy to be a HOF on the Cowboys, etc etc

    1. From Brian wolf ...

      Revis will be in soon as well and Grantham is deserving too. Did you prefer Klecko to Gastineau ?

  4. Definitely preferred Klecko . Supremely underrated in 77,78,79 and 80 playing on very bad Jet teams . If he had played for someone else he would have had a boatload of honors.

  5. The only 2 players I would have put in over him this time would have been Gradishar and Kuechenberg .