Joe Namath was born and raised in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania (30 miles (50 km) northwest of Pittsburgh)….and grew up in its Lower End neighborhood as the son of Catholic parents, Rose and John Andrew Namath, a steelworker….as his parents were of Hungarian descent….when his Hungarian-born grandfather, Andrew Németh, known as “A.J.” to his family and friends, came to Ellis Island on the steamer Pannonia in 1911….and worked in the coal and steel industries of the greater Pittsburgh area. While growing up, Namath was close to both of his parents, who eventually divorced…..when following his parents’ divorce, he lived with his mother…..as the youngest of four sons….with an older adopted sister.
Namath excelled in all sports at Beaver Falls High School….while being a standout quarterback in football, guard in basketball and outfielder in baseball…..who in an age when dunks were uncommon in high school basketball, Namath regularly dunked in games. Coached by Larry Bruno at Beaver Falls, Namath’s football team won the WPIAL Class AA championship with a 9–0 record in 1960…..as Coach Bruno would later present Broadway Joe to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Upon graduation from high school in 1961, Namath received offers from several Major League Baseball teams, including the Yankees, Indians, Reds, Pirates and Phillies…..but chose football over all the rest when Namath told interviewers that he wanted to sign with the Pirates and play baseball like his idol, Roberto Clemente, but elected to play football because his mother wanted him to get a college education….and that’s when he enrolled at the University of Alabama….but left before graduating in order to pursue a career in professional football…..however, a college degree was finally earned by Namath at age 64 after he completed an external-program bachelor of arts degree in interdisciplinary studies at the University of Alabama in 2007.
Namath had many offers from Division I college football programs, including Penn State, Ohio State, Alabama, and Notre Dame…..but initially decided upon the University of Maryland after being heavily recruited by Maryland assistant coach Roland Arrigoni…..but he was rejected by Maryland because his college-board scores were just below the school’s requirements…..that is when after heavy recruiting by Coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant….Joe Namath accepted a full scholarship to attend Alabama. Bryant stated his decision to recruit Namath was “the best coaching decision I ever made.”
As seen in this video herewith….NBC’s legendary sportscaster Bob Costas pays a video tribute to the football career of Joe Willy Namath during his narration of the NBC Sports special A Celebration of Sports …..which we here at ImaSportsphile are “tickled pink” to have in our treasure chest of vintage memories.