(Photo courtesy of the New York Jets)
(Former New York Jets great Winston Hill passed away Tuesday night in Denver at the age of 74. In honor of him, we’re re-running a State Your Case article that pushed Hill for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and that was first published in December, 2014. Winston Hill, rest in peace).
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
It’s not Winston Hill’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame that puzzles me. It’s the Hall’s failure to discuss the guy that I don’t get.
Hill wasn’t just a starting tackle on the Jets’ Super Bowl III team. He was Joe Namath’s bodyguard, entrusted to protect the foundation of the franchise. But he was more than that. Winston Hill was a complete player, a superior run blocker who helped open the holes Emerson Boozer and Matt Snell exploited so effectively in the Jets’ landmark defeat of Baltimore.
He was good enough to be a four-time All-AFL choice. He was good enough to be a four-time All-NFL choice. He was as durable as he was tough, missing only one game in his 15 years in the pros and starting 174 straight times. And he could run block as well as he could pass protect.
The Baltimore Colts found out the hard way in Super Bowl III when the Jets ran Snell left behind Hill, hammering away at defensive end Ordell Braase, Result: Snell ran for a game-high 121 yards, including the Jets’ only touchdown in the first half. Most teams ran in the other direction, but not New York … and it was because of one guy.
“I’ve been telling reporters for a long time that Winston Hill is a great offensive tackle,” winning coach Weeb Ewbank said after Super Bowl III, “and (in the Super Bowl) he proved it. I mean, when he blocks he doesn’t just a get a stalemate with the guy he’s on. He blows him out.”
But Hill was one of the first top pass-blocking tackles, too, using his size and strength to keep onrushing linemen off Namath. Few people talk about his quickness, but the guy could move – and if you don’t believe me ask the guys who played with him in the spring. Hill was a star tennis player.
“Of all the people on the Jets who aren’t in the Hall of Fame, he’s the first one that should be there,” said Frank Ramos, former Jets’ public relations director. “He had more honors than any other Jet – including Joe Namath. He was a complete blocker.”
That figures. He played for Ewbank, who was an assistant on the great Cleveland Browns teams that had Otto Graham as their quarterback and who went on to become head coach in Baltimore when John Unitas was the quarterback. Ewbank understood the value of protecting a quarterback, and never was that clearer than when Namath threw for 4,007 yards in 1967.
According to Ramos, Namath was sacked seven times.
That doesn’t surprise Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Parcells. He recalled visiting the Jets in training camp one summer and leaving with one impression: Other than Namath and Snell, Winston Hill was the best player on the football field. In fact, when he was asked to name one candidate not in the Hall who belonged, he chose Hill.
“I guess that would be the guy,” he said. “I just think he’s a heckuva lot better than some of the guys who are in there.”
So do I. Winston Hill was good. Very good. And if he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, he at least belongs in the conversation. So let’s start talking.