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Joe Klecko, Pro Football Hall of Fame Defensive Lineman

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb
The Truth Network Radio
February 22, 2023 7:02 pm

Joe Klecko, Pro Football Hall of Fame Defensive Lineman

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb

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February 22, 2023 7:02 pm

Joe Klecko joined Zach to discuss his emotions after being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and if the Jets should trade for Aaron Rodgers. 

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Visit or download the app to get free delivery on your first order. Offer valid for a limited time, minimum order $10, additional term supply. 20 past the hour, this is that Yelp show coast to coast on CBS Sports Radio. Congratulations are in order to our next guest, who I'm really fired up to talk to, and I'm a proud graduate of Temple University, and right now I'm actually wearing a cherry and white Temple Owls football jersey with the number 72 on the front and the last name of Cleco on the back. And now joining us on the Zach Gelb show is the newest member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the great Joe Cleco. Joe, being able to hear Pro Football Hall of Famer in front of your name probably has a nice ring to it, right?

It is a sweetness to my ears. It's been a great ride, but this whole time as we've been announcing it, it's been a run in the Cleco family for sure. What goes through your mind when you think about it now, basically two weeks later, I know you've known for a while with the way that they inform you, but what goes through your mind when you look back and you go, wow, I finally made the Hall of Fame? Really, it's like one of them things, the top of the mountain, and it's a pedestal that not many people reach, and it takes a long time even to sink in, because I was sitting with a friend of mine one day in his office and we were talking about it, and he goes, you have to still learn that you belong.

Because I waited so long, too, you always have that adapt to creep in. Now that that's over and done, it was a process even to think about being accepted. When we finally went out to Arizona and they announced it, and then we met with a lot of the other Hall of Fame guys there and all, and everybody was just so gracious, the old guys. When you go to a new team, a football team, you're given a cold shoulder a little bit sometimes by some guys, but this was not the case.

Everybody that we were talking with and met, it was more welcoming than anything. Your last year playing football was in 1988. It's nothing that you could have changed throughout this entire process. Your career was great. It is what it was, right?

And it was in the hands of somebody else. I know you talked about some doubts. How did you kind of remain positive?

Because it had to be frustrating when so many people that are in the Hall of Fame keep on telling you, you belong, you belong, you belong. Well, you know, it was. After a while, you really just got to keep going with the flow. You get that call and it's kind of like, hey, Joe, I think maybe this is the year and then it doesn't happen. And, you know, I never got discouraged about it. You know, I always like I've always tell everybody that if if it's my time and God wants me there, then I'll be there. You know, and I accepted that, you know, and you know, when it finally came, though, it was really exciting.

But, you know, I didn't get I didn't get discouraged. I never was down about it. But, you know, I just figured if if it was to be, it was to be Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Kletko is here with us on the Zach Gelb show. Take me through the day where Joe Namath showed up at your door, knocked on your door and told you were going to Canada, Ohio. Yeah, it was pretty exciting. My wife and my daughter kept it from me, but I stayed home because they needed me. They said for something. And he was really hilarious because I was expecting someone to be delivering lunch.

You know, and here, my lord, Joe Namath, his gold jacket with about 14 people standing behind him with cameras. So it was it was exciting. It was really a thrill.

I mean, just exhilarating thrill. It was fantastic. You probably had to pinch yourself, right, to make sure that it was real.

Oh, no. You know, as you know, as I watched it and I'm sitting there and I'm talking about it and I'm saying to Joe, you know, oh, my God, oh, my God. And and I said, you know, I got to admit, Joe, I said, it's never been better to see you than it is now. I mean, it was it was really a buildup. It was a crescendo.

It really was. Now, you became a finalist through the senior committee, so you knew there was a shot to get in this year. And I know Gary Myers was pretty optimistic about your chances to finally get enshrined into the Hall of Fame. Did you have any sense that day that Joe or maybe not Joe, but that you were going to get informed that, hey, you made the Hall of Fame?

Well, you know, like Gary said, I had made the three finalists. And, you know, he says, Joe, nothing's written in stone yet, he said. But, you know, usually, you know, it's a rubber stamp.

But, you know, I told him, I said, listen, I'm a construction business. And until I sign on the dotted line or get the check, nothing's ever done. So, you know, I guess Joe name is coming to the door that day with me finally getting the check that, you know, it was a long awaited. Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Kletko is here with us. So coming up this summer, it's going to be a day of celebration. It's also going to be a day when people reflect and remember your career. How do you want people to remember your career and what you did on the football field?

I just want to remember the baby. I was the guy you can rely on. I was the guy that everybody depended on. I was the guy that was always going to be there no matter what the score, what any, any consideration of the game was cold, wet, hot. You know, I just wanted to make sure everybody knew there was one guy you could really count on and that was me. And, you know, that's the way I played the game. I played the game, you know, like a lot of guys talk about that I played against.

You know, it didn't matter what score was, whether it be, you know, 10 to 10 or 30 to nothing. I came the same way every single play. You had to get ready.

So I like that about me. The New York SAC exchange, obviously iconic. It's just one of those nicknames of a group that people are going to remember for years and years still to come. Your memories about playing and being a part of the New York SAC exchange?

Well, it was really exciting. The reason being is we were a bunch of young guys and New York Jets hadn't really got much fame up to then. And then, you know, the draft choices with Marty Lyons and Mark Gastow got drafted one or two that year. And the next year we basically became the SAC exchange. You know, you know, all of a sudden, you know, people were coming out of the woodwork. You know, shoe companies wanted to sign us. You know, everybody wanted us as far as, you know, appearances and things.

And it was really, really falling off the cliff as far as something you ever, you never could possibly imagine as a youngster. And, you know, we were a bunch of young guys playing hard. And that was one of the great things that, you know, that we could take to our grave is we played hard and we played together. And being the SAC exchange really, I mean, it entered a new phase into our life, you know, with the notoriety. What did you realize the importance of it, just wondering? Well, the importance of it really was that the reason we got the name and the reason we got the notoriety is we were good.

I mean, the importance of it was we were able to do things that other people couldn't do. And at that time, you know, we were like one SAC off the record. You know, SACs weren't kept as a record yet. But we had 66 SACs that year.

And I think the record now is 70. And, you know, it was held by the Eagles. But, you know, we were right there in that the whole time. And, you know, it was fun to be recognized as, you know, as a group that had to be reckoned with.

And at times we struck fear into guys' eyes. There's a lot of times with the Hall of Fame, there's guys that have to wait and wait and wait. And for years we wonder why they didn't get in. Like, we went through this entire situation with Jerry Kramer and thankfully he eventually got in.

When you try to pinpoint a reason, Joe Kletko, do you have any idea why it took this long? You know, somebody said to me one day, I was talking to Joe Horgan, who's the, you know, the guy who's been running the Hall of Fame for a million years. He knows everybody. It was great talking to a guy like that.

He knew Bronca Nagurski in Red Grains. I'm like, oh my Lord. You know, so, you know, talking to him, he had told me one time when I was in the modern day voting that the voters were asking about me like, well, what position does he play?

You know, and they were trying to put me into a category and they couldn't seem to do it. And they asked Joe Delamelore, the great guard from the Buffalo Bills I played against. He goes, does it really matter what position? Yeah, the position shouldn't matter, right?

You dominated. That was the bottom line. Right, exactly. And for me, you know, really, you know, convincing yourself as you go away every year and you don't get it. You know, I always said, I said, I'm very proud of the guys that I played against in the Hall of Fame, always talking about, hey, you're the toughest guy or you're one of the toughest guys or, you know, maybe me or one other person. Like, I remember John Hannon saying, you know, that myself and Howie Long were the two toughest guys you ever played against, you know. So those kind of accolades were real good, you know, to take away. But, you know, there was always that missing element of, you know, the Hall of Fame. Take me through the days when you were known as Jim Jones when you were playing semi-professional football and how you ended up at our school temple.

Yeah. Listen, I left high school. I didn't get any scholarships or anything like that.

And, you know, I wasn't going to pay for college and we didn't have, we were not a family of means. So I went to work and then one day I was out, you know, watching a softball game and one of the guys who was coaching this Aston Knights team said to me, hey, Joe, we got a bunch of guys that came out that I may know and all. And I went out to watch them play and, you know, I mean, I came out to practice and, you know, I started up and, you know, I was pretty good at it. So I played for the Aston Knights and that actually got me a scholarship to go to temple.

That's an incredible story. So obviously you played your college ball for the legendary Wayne Harden. When did you realize that you could be great and do this for a living, maybe professionally one day? Well, I think what it was in my junior year, the scouts started coming around and inquiring about me and wanting to interview me, you know? So, you know, I mean, you know, I realized that we were playing the Penn State for the world and, you know, one of the big reasons like Penn State could never run on us was because of me. And, you know, they were talking about these old Americans that I would play against and all, and I didn't have too many problems with these big old Americans they were talking about. So, you know, I figured, you know what, if these guys are being touted as great players, you know, maybe I do have a chance. So I think my junior year came around and I started realizing, you know, that I could possibly do this. I know your son, Dan, pretty well.

We know what he ended up doing in the NFL as well, winning a few Super Bowls. What was your conversations like with Dan once you got the notification, the knock on the door from Joe Namath? All my kids are, well, you know, it's dad. So, you know, they were just, you know, 10 shades to the clouds and my grandkids were jumping up and down. So, you know, of course, Danny and my son, Michael and Joshua, all of them were on the phone and, you know, we were talking and then they all came over to the house the next day. And, you know, it was, it was exciting. So, you know, getting the, the, the ras from them and my grandkids too. That was fantastic. So your grandkids know, hey, grandpa's a pretty big deal.

He's a pretty bad ass. Yeah. Well, no, they still think I'm grandpa. It really doesn't matter to them. They're always testing me and carrying on.

And I love it. This current group for the Jets, they had a really impressive season on the defensive side of the ball. What stood out to you with guys like sauce, Gardner and Quinn and Williams? Well, again, they're great players. They, you know, I mean, uh, Gardner got, you know, the rookie of the year and, and Quinn's a perennial pro right now.

He's, he just is a constant dominant force and, you know, they have a pretty good array around them. Uh, you know, and, uh, you know, it's not bad when you play for head coaches, the defensive minded guy. So, you know, they had a great year. I mean, they have a few things to plug in, of course, which is the biggest plug at quarterback. And if they can accomplish that and, you know, uh, patch up that offensive line, you know, the Jets could be possibly, you know, make a real run at something here. Are you hoping they find the way to pull off a deal for Rogers?

No, no, I don't. I don't, I don't think Rogers is a fit with the young guys. You know, I relate them to myself with a young team that came up when we started winning and why it was a good fit with all of us, because we all worked together and came up together, you know?

And I just think, you know, I've watched Rogers over the years. He's a great player. Listen, you don't become an MVP three times without doing what he's done, but you know, when he didn't have the, you know, the, the, the perfect arrangement with receivers and, and game plan and, and the line. You know, his, his attitude was condescending so much to the players. He didn't want them to come back to the huddle and all. And I can't see the, you know, like Wilson, you know, he won the, the, uh, rookie of the year, uh, offense player. I can't see him coming back to the huddle and, you know, Rogers, Lambeth, and he was running the wrong route, you know?

I mean, he just, it's not going to fit. I don't see it. You know, I see a guy like Carr who's, you know, he was an all pro. He hasn't been an MVP, but he's had some great years, but I just can't see, you know, uh, them going after, uh, after, you know, a guy that has had all his years and had his way.

And then when it doesn't turn out his way, he goes dark. You know, I just can't see it. So you can see him ruin the locker room is what you're saying? Absolutely. You got a young bunch of guys who are fighting with each other and you have a company, you have to bring a guy in who has his own opinion about things.

I think that can turn a bad feeling in that locker room. Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Kletkos still has a great ring to it. I know it's never going to get old, Joe. We're so happy for you and your family. Thanks so much. Appreciate you doing this. Thanks.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-22 20:19:17 / 2023-02-22 20:26:32 / 7

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