Most football fans believe the New York Jets really began in 1965 when Joe Namath joined the team as a rookie quarterback. However, the year before was the first year under the ownership of Sonny Werblin who had purchased the team from original owner Harry Wismer. The team moved into the newly built Shea Stadium in September of 1964.
Wismer was woefully underfunded and since the New York market was so fertile, having such a “poor” owner did not help matters for the fledgling AFL. Werblin immediately started pouring money into the franchise and even successfully won a bidding war for the services of Matt Snell who was a high draft pick for both the NFL New York Giants and the Jets.
In addition, during that season before Namath joined the Jets, the Jets had a middle linebacker by the name of “Wahoo” McDaniel. McDaniel was a decent but not great linebacker but because of his name this began a great public address tradition at Shea Stadium. The announcer would ask: “Tackle by who?” and the crowd would respond “Wahoo!”
McDaniel, like many linebackers of that day, made a lot of tackles; 23 in one game in fact. However, within two years, he was considered expendable and became a Miami Dolphin when they selected him in their expansion draft in 1966. He got into an altercation with police in Miami, however, was traded to San Diego and then retired.
It turned out he would become more famous in his next line of work. After leaving football, he became a very successful wrestler and won many titles during his career, which lasted into the 1990s.
That combination of New York, a really cool name and the future wrestling career brought McDaniel’s cards to major popularity where they remain today as a key card in the 1967 Topps football set which is the only major manufacturer card he appeared on during his career. It’s a great image of a guy who surely had plenty of stories to tell. Wahoo McDaniel died from complication of diabetes and renal failure in 2002 at age 63.
You might have read recently about another pro football rebel. Jim McMahon finally has his college degree. McMahon left BYU for the NFL before graduating, but recently finished his course work and is now eligible to be inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.
Although they only won one Super Bowl in the 1980’s, perhaps no team had as many characters as the 1985 Chicago Bears. From the rookie exploits of William “Refrigerator” Perry to the continued greatness of Walter “Sweetness” Payton those Bear teams had a great cast of characters. In football, the leading character is usually the quarterback and the Bears were no exception. McMahon come out of a structured BYU program and almost immediately began a wild ride for the next decade. He matched his off-field exploits with a series of battles with then commissioner Pete Rozelle.
And, oh yes, McMahon was truly the guts and soul of this Bears team. Early in the magic 1985 season, in a Thursday night game against the Vikings in which he was supposed to miss because of an injury, McMahon came off the bench and led the Bears to a 24 point second half outburst to propel Chicago to a come from behind victory. That game gave the Bears a 3-0 record and a forward momentum that never let up except for one game in Miami in which Dan Marino led the Dolphins to victory and gave the Bears the only loss they would suffer in the 1985 season. The Bears took their momentum and rode to a Super Bowl swamping of the New England Patriots.
That season McMahon wore a series of headbands which were against NFL rules. In a precursor to today’s world where a standard nickname for the NFL is the No Fun League, McMahon would try to come up with an innovative headband which both garnered him a ton of publicity as well as a ton of fines.
Today, the players would laugh off such fines but in the 1980’s it was front page news for many Chicago media members. I would say more time and ink was spent on those headbands as were on more important NFL items.
While no regular McMahon card is very expensive, the 1983 Topps rookie is his best card and was the most important card during his career. The toughest card of McMahon’s playing career was a signed 1991 Pro Line card as he did not sign all the cards he was supposed to. In fact he signed almost none of these cards and thus finding certified McMahon autographs are almost impossible.
Considering the recent headlines generated by certain NFL players, Wahoo McDaniel and Jim McMahon seem pretty tame.