If you get the nagging feeling that someone is missing at Saturday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, that feeling is both a correct and recurring one.
The biggest Hall of Fame snub has been a regular one since 1999.
Justice delayed is justice denied in the curious case of former New York Jets‘ great Joe Klecko, who was eligible in 1999 and still hasn’t been elected. Klecko is the only player in the history of the NFL to make the Pro Bowl at three positions (nose guard, tackle and end) and for that alone deserves serious consideration, but his domination of those positions should have put him over the top a long time ago.
Of all the players on the famous Jets’ “Sack Exchange,” he was undoubtedly the most feared. While the Jets do not make the playoffs these days, they made regular appearances when Klecko was there. He led the team to playoff appearances in 1981 and 1982 in addition to 1985 and 1986.
Klecko was a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, a year that he led the league with 20.5 sacks. Consider this: Dan Hampton of the Chicago Bears is in the Hall of Fame and his top year in sacks was 11. Klecko had 77.5 sacks for his career, which spanned from 1977 to 1987. For the time he played, he was widely considered the strongest man in the league.
Klecko was one of the few players to have played pro football before entering college, as then Temple University head coach Wayne Hardin found him playing for a semi-pro team in Aston, Pa. Since Klecko wanted to keep his college eligibility, he never accepted pay from the team and drove a truck instead until Hardin recruited him to the Philadelphia school. Klecko became an All-American for the Owls and helped the team to 14-straight wins between 1973 and 1974. Later, Joe’s son, Dan Klecko, also went to Temple and became a Big East Defensive Player of the Year. After college, the younger Klecko went on to win Super Bowl rings with both the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.
Joe Klecko also dabbled in a movie career, starring in “Smokey and the Bandit II” with Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason in 1980.
His biggest role, however, is yet to be played on that big stage in Canton. The sooner the better for this designation.