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Joe Klecko

2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame Seniors Committee finalist

All-Pro Defensive Lineman

Member of the famed New York Jets "Sack Exchange"

Joe Klecko, who grew up in a blue-collar town near Philadelphia (Chester, Pennsylvania) was a truck driver, boxer and semi-pro football player (under the name Jim Jones) before he began his collegiate career at Temple University.

 

Because of his strength and speed as a middle guard at Temple, Klecko was selected by the New York Jets in the sixth round of the NFL draft. He led the league’s rookies that season with eight sacks. Klecko, at 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds, was the first member of the “New York Sack Exchange".

Klecko, one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the history of the NFL, played for the New York Jets from 1977 to 1987. The first-team All-Pro selection (1981, 1985) was named to four Pro Bowls (at three different positions) and finished with a total of 78 career sacks.  The 1981 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was a key member of the prolific "New York Sack Exchange", a nickname given to the Jets defensive line in the 1980s which became the most feared defensive front four in the early 1980s.

 

In 1981 Klecko finished the season with 20 1/2 sacks, was named to his first Pro Bowl team and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He has played defensive end and tackle, plus nose guard, and was the first NFL player to be named to the Pro Bowl at three different positions. Klecko played much of his career for fellow Polish Hall of Famer Walt Michaels, who took over the Jets in 1977 and turned the struggling team into a contender. They made it to the AFC championship game in 1982, only to lose to Miami, 14-0, on a rain-soaked field. Injuries to both knees ended his career in 1988 after one season with the Indianapolis Colts.

On August 17, 2022 Klecko was selected by the Seniors Committee to be a 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist.