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How a Rock 'n' Roller Brought the Jets' Sack Exchange Logo to Life

As Team Unveils New Uniforms, Logo and Overall Rebrand, Former Video Director Jim Pons Recalls Fan-Favorite Design Set to Soar Again in Modern Era


It's like that golden oldie that you hadn't heard in a while and can't wait to hear again ... and again after that.

The Jets' legacy logo is back and better than ever. The modernized Sack Exchange Logo.

Jim Pons' pride and joy.

"It was all a huge surprise. It came from out of nowhere," Pons, 81, reminisced from his Jacksonville studio recently about receiving word from his former team that the "simplistic" JETS logo that he designed in the late Seventies at the start of the New York Sack Exchange era is about to come roaring back with a new version in 2024. "I had no idea they were even thinking about it, nor did I know that it was that popular with the Jets fans. They told me the fans demanded we go back to the old logo, to my logo.

"So really, that's wonderful. I'm very happy about that, very proud of that."

For those who don't know his name or who vaguely remember his history, Pons before his Jets incarnation was a part of rock 'n' roll history in the Sixties and Seventies.

A part of history? Heck, Jim's autobiography was named the Florida Writers' Association Book of the Year in 2017. He's now collaborating on a screenplay of his life.

The Odyssey Begins
Pons started the garage band The Leaves, whose version of "Hey Joe" dominated the Western U.S. airwaves in the mid-Sixties and was made into a Jimi Hendrix rock anthem. He then joined The Turtles as "Happy Together" became a monster hit that carried them around the world several times.

After a gig at a London speakeasy, Pons recalled a backroom conversation with someone even more famous than he that went something like this:

Pons: "Paul, you and the Beatles are the reason for my being in the music business, the reason for our success, the reason for our lives."

Paul McCartney: "That's all good, Jim, but I'd like to know the chords for 'Happy Together'."

After more musical connections, with Frank Zappa and Flo and Eddie, Pons said it was "time to hang up my rock 'n' roll shoes."

What next? A friend in 1973 was departing that football club then based at old Shea Stadium in Queens and still known as the recent iconic winners of Super Bowl III. The Jets hired Pons initially as an "office boy" whose early responsibilities in the team's New York City offices were to get then-owner Leon Hess' lunch (lox on a bagel), polish the Super Bowl trophy once a week, and mail out Joe Namath posters to adoring fans.

"I Still Knew I Could Do It"
Soon head coach Weeb Ewbank had an opening at team headquarters out at Shea. Pons began as assistant equipment manager under the late, great Bill Hampton Sr. Then one day Weeb asked Jim, "Do you know anything about movies?"

"Yessir, Mr. Ewbank," he replied. "They used to call me (filmmaker and actor) Cecil B. DeMille Jr. back in California."

Pons didn't even know how to focus a camera or shoot photos. But in 1975, he became the Jets' film and then video director.

In a similar fashion, he became the organization's reigning graphic arts guru.

"I heard they were talking about having a new design, and I had taken some art classes when I was in school," he said. "In fact, I had taken a graphic arts class and they taught us how to make logos. I failed that class, but I still knew I could do it. I saw some of the offers that were coming in from the graphic artists in Manhattan and their prices were pretty hefty. I thought, 'I bet if I made one, they might like it because it's me on the staff,' so I started to design one."

The original Jets logo 'looked kind of confusing," he recalled, so he created his own font and went to work. He thought it would be nice "just to have the name moving in a direction. Then I started tilting the letters. Then I thought, 'Gee, maybe a jet plane would look pretty cool,' so I started fooling around with how to get the J extended over the tops of the other letters. After a few days, it started to look pretty good. I gave it to them and they liked it and they used it."

"The Best Logo the Jets Ever Had"
Used it and then some. Pons' simple yet kinetic design was the Jets' logo from 1978-97, until Bill Parcells arrived and brought back an updated version of the 1965-77 logo. That held sway until the next rebrand, with a more stylized version of the newer logo gracing team helmets, merchandise and letterheads from 2019 through last season.

But the organization was clearly thinking team and logo "Happy Together" once more. The Sack Exchange logo reappeared on the Jets' helmets for two 2023 games, the season opener against Buffalo and Game 4 vs. Kansas City. And after those perhaps "test flights," the Jets are going with something old that's new once more, the Sack Exchange logo modernized for today's digital landscape.

The logo will be front and center, along with new uniforms, new secondary logos and a new line of team merchandise, at the unveiling. And back right where he belongs, in the middle of all the rock 'n' roll, will be Jim Pons.

"I've told people, 'Yeah, that's mine, I did that,' " he said. "I've got some strokes. People told me they liked it and that made me feel good. And I do like it still. I think it's the best logo they ever had and I'm glad they're going back to it. And maybe they'll start winning again."

That was the plan way back then. That's the plan again.