Decades before The Bachelor, he was the bachelor. There was “the guarantee,” the full-length fur coats, the procession of the most beautiful and famous women in the world, and a transcendence that ordained Joe Namath as the very first sex symbol of sports. He became every bit as iconic and identifiable to the city of New York, and perhaps the planet, as the Big Apple landmark from which his nickname was born. He was, is and forever shall be “Broadway Joe” Namath. And these days, he’s attempting to tackle goals much greater than his Super Bowl trophies.
In his 30-plus years of involvement with numerous charities, Namath has raised millions of dollars for a bevy of most-deserving causes. “I’ve tried to help somehow for most of my life. I remember collecting dimes as a kid for March of Dimes. Mom and Dad tried to help out. It comes from them,” says Namath, who has raised an estimated $33 million over the past 20 years for that same children’s charity. In 2017, he launched The Joe Namath Foundation, a private 501 (c)(3), not only to benefit children’s charities, but also to aide in neurological education and research.
Recent findings on the link between concussions, traumatic brain injuries and neurological damage also became his call to action: As a result, he created the Joe Namath Neurological Research Center at Jupiter Medical Center. “Teammates and friends are suffering. The masses aren’t aware of just how many are suffering. We began hyperbaric treatments in 2012, and I know it’s a major help. We’re trying to show the FDA the data to approve this method. Insurance doesn’t cover it. In many countries, like Japan, hyperbaric chambers are normal therapy. We need the FDA to help,” says Namath.
Every bit as iconic and recognizable today as he was while winning Super Bowl 3 in January 1969, some six months before man would even set foot on the moon, Namath remains a man of the people. “Everywhere I go, there are good vibes. I run into people with smiles every day,” says Namath, who admits to having been star-struck himself on several occasions. “Oh, man: the actor Pat O’Brien who played in Knute Rockne [All American]; Rocky Marciano; meeting Arnold Palmer in Pittsburgh in 1965; Perry Como; Gregory Peck; Bob Hope. I would be [star-struck] with Bruce Springsteen, I’m sure, and I hope I continue to always feel that way,” says Namath.
Summer plans include travel back to Pennsylvania to visit family, and New York for time with friends and fundraising, but Namath prefers being in the Tequesta-Jupiter area that he’s called home for three decades. “It’s the fresh air year-round, the colors, the greens and the blues, and the flowers. I love the summer breeze. It suits me,” Namath says, adding, “I don’t put exactly where out there, but there are seven or eight great spots where we love to eat from here down to the Gardens. I’m happy to keep exactly where a secret.”
As a father, grandfather, and eternal global icon of sports and celebrity, Namath is a man who somehow manages to maintain proper perspective on life. “I’m thankful for good health; I’m thankful for family. It’s been a joy. You live and you learn. Life’s been good to me,” he says, smiling. “It’s a team effort, and all about who you share it with.”
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