Jets Rumors & News
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We all know about the great athletes in New York sports history – Babe Ruth, Tom Seaver, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Namath, Mark Messier, Walt Frazier – and even the busts – Ed Whitson, Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Stephon Marbury, Scott Gomez. But what about the slightly-to-highly-above-average athlete? The kind-of-great but not all-timer? They may not have been Hall-of-Famers, but they were All-Stars, fan favorites, cogs on a championship team or maybe even just pretty darn good. They’re the little brother that didn’t hog all the attention. But they’re certainly worth talking about and remembering. So when do they get their due? Well, now they will. Here is a series of the not-quite-legendary in New York sports history.

They were joined at the hip. They filled in for each other. They were the one-two punch of the New York Jets’ golden era. Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer had a lot in common – a great work ethic, selflessness and also, unfortunately, injuries. But they won a Super Bowl together, so they will go down as two of the greatest and most popular of all New York Jets players.

Matt Snell

Matt Snell was the first big draft pick in franchise history. He was taken in the fourth round by the Giants and the first round by the Jets (third overall) in the 1964 draft. He chose the fledgling Jets because, well, they offered him a lot more money. Before joining the Jets, he had an outstanding and unique college career at Ohio State. He made the team as a sophomore and was the blocking back. In his junior year, he switched to the other side of the ball and became a defensive end. He went back to offense as a senior, becoming the starting running back and was voted the team’s MVP. In 2000, he was named to the Ohio State Football All-Century Team as a defensive end. After graduating, he was an instant success in the AFL, setting the Jet single-game rushing record, when he gained 180 yards vs. Houston in his debut season. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award, after gaining 945 yards (which was second in the league and the most in his career) and catching a career-high 56 passes.

The highlight of Snell’s career came in January 1969, of course, when the Jets upset the powerhouse NFL Baltimore Colts. Joe Namath won the MVP, but Snell was the key to the game in controlling the ball and keeping it away from the Baltimore offense. He set the tone for the day when, on the second offensive play of the game for the Jets, he knocked Colt Rick Volk into oblivion (and unconsciousness). Snell gained a then-Super-Bowl record (sure, it was only the third one, but a record’s a record) 121 yards on 30 carries, helped to set up three Jim Turner field goals and scored the only touchdown of the game for New York, which is still the only TD the Jets have scored in a Super Bowl.

The Georgia native made three AFL All-Star teams (1964, ’66 and ’69) and was a First Team All-AFLer in 1969 (and made the second team in ’64 and ’65). He played all nine years of his career with the Jets, though he suffered through many injuries, including a ruptured Achilles tendon and constant knee problems (and didn’t even have any carries the last two seasons he was on the roster). He gained 4,285 yards in his career (for a 4.1 average), scored 24 rushing touchdowns and caught seven passes for touchdowns. He also appeared in the first Miller Lite commercial, setting a trend for retired athletes everywhere, which in and of itself is a great accomplishment. Matt Snell was a great rusher, great blocker and, most of all, a great teammate.

Emerson Boozer

Emerson Boozer could have been Matt Snell’s twin. He was born in Georgia (on the Fourth of July), played his whole career with the Jets, rushed, blocked and caught passes, doing whatever the team needed from him and won a Super Bowl. Just like Snell. Boozer went to Maryland Eastern Shore College, and was taken in the sixth round of the 1966 draft by the Jets (and the seventh round by the Steelers in the NFL draft). He became a starter for the Jets in 1967 when Snell was out with an injury. He was well on his way to setting a new AFL rushing touchdown record when he suffered a knee injury of his own and was never really the same after that. He did lead the league in TD’s, but his open-field style of running and great athleticism never returned to his 1967 level.

Like Snell, the highlight of Boozer’s career was, of course, winning Super Bowl III. Snell and Namath received the accolades, but Boozer was the one in the trenches protecting the two with his ferocious blocking (and he gained 19 yards). In the 1968 AFL Championship game against Oakland, Boozer and Snell combined for 122 yards (Boozer 51, Snell 71). They could both run, and they could both block. With Snell in the lineup, Boozer did the dirty work, and when Snell was on injured reserve, Boozer stepped in and carried the ball without the Jets missing a beat. In 1972, Boozer was leading the league in touchdowns once again until another injury stopped him. His best season came in 1973, when he rushed for 831 yards. The next season, he scored the first overtime sudden-death touchdown in NFL history on a pass from Namath to beat the Giants.

For his 10-year career, Boozer gained 5,135 yards (for a 4.0 average), scored 52 touchdowns and made two Pro Bowls (1966, ’68). He was a phenomenal goal-line rusher, blocker and third-down receiver. And, again like Snell, Emerson Boozer was a selfless teammate who did whatever it took to win.

(Click on the names to read the other bios in the series: Steve Vickers, John Olerud, Al Toon, Brad Van Pelt, Dick Barnett, Mickey Rivers, Butch Goring/Ron Duguay/Ken Daneyko, Rusty Staub and Buck Williams.)

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