Jets celebrate 50th Super Bowl anniversary, have faith in future

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They couldn’t have known at the time it would be the franchise’s last trip to the Super Bowl for at least 50 years, but the 1968 Jets certainly cherished it like it might be.

Being 18-point underdogs will do that. The Jets entered Super Bowl III against the heavily-favored Colts and lived up to Joe Namath’s guarantee, winning 16-7 at the Orange Bowl in Miami. On Saturday night at MetLife Stadium, many of them were back in the same building to celebrate the championship again.

“For 10 days or more, we’d been hearing and being told that we were underdogs — big underdogs,” Namath said Saturday before enjoying the anniversary dinner with his teammates. “But you know what? We all are underdogs from time to time in our life and I just got tired hearing about it. When someone said something, a wise guy yelled out something at me, I had to let him know how I felt. I told him, ‘Hey buddy I got news for you, we’re going to win the game. I guarantee it.’ ”

Broadway Joe wasn’t the only one feeling that confident, despite the fact the Jets were trying to win the AFL’s first Super Bowl.

“We all felt the same as Joe, we just couldn’t say it,” said cornerback Randy Beverly, who had two interceptions in the game. “Joe was our leader and he could say pretty much anything he wanted to. We just said, ‘Way to go, Joe.’ ”

The Jets had three future Hall of Famers on that team in Namath, wide receiver Don Maynard and coach Weeb Ewbank. While Ewbank passed away in 1998, both Namath and Maynard were back in the building Saturday night to remember the historic season.

“That brings back great memories,” Maynard said. “We played together and we lived together and once or twice, we came out on the short end. But when you get a chance to make up for that, we celebrated real good.”

The team will be honored on the field during halftime of Sunday’s Jets game against the Colts. There will be a special unveiling to commemorate the Super Bowl title.

Defensive end Gerry Philbin, who said he expected about 39 players to attend the dinner, remembered the Super Bowl being the first of two chances to earn respect that the Jets got that year.

“What solidified our win was beating the Giants when we played in the exhibition game [in 1969],” Philbin said. “Because if we don’t beat the Giants, we don’t get the respect in New York and we wanted that more than anything.”

The Jets haven’t won a Super Bowl since then — never mind getting back to the title game — but that hasn’t stopped Namath from believing it could happen.

“Teams change, players change, coaches change, ownership changes, but the fans have been here since the Titans were bought and we started the Jets,” Namath said. “The Jets fans have been strong, they’ve been loyal. We haven’t had a lot of winning seasons and haven’t won a championship, but we’re pulling for them. … You dream about it, it can happen.”

With a potential franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold in the midst of his rookie season, Namath hopes the Jets might be on their way.

“He’s got talent. He carries himself beautifully,” Namath said. “It is a team game. They need more pieces to be able to compete on a championship level. They’re growing and we’ll see what happens. They just have to build this year and keep getting better.”

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