Joe Klecko, the versatile and relentless force along the Jets' defensive line from 1977-87, has cleared another hurdle in the Pro Football Hall of Fame's seniors selection process and is now one final vote before Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12 from being inducted into the game's Canton, OH, shrine.
The Hall's 12-person Seniors Committee met Tuesday in Canton, with each committee member discussing one of the 12 Senior finalists in detail. Klecko was one of the three Seniors who were announced Wednesday who will be sent to the full Selection Committee for consideration at its annual meeting in Arizona before Super Bowl LVII. He is joined by Dallas LB Chuck Howley and Cincinnati CB Ken Riley as the Seniors who move on to that final vote.
At that meeting, any or all of the three Seniors finalists could be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As Gary Myers, the Jets' representative on the Selection Committee, tweeted, "The 3 then need 80% of vote of full 49-member committee in Jan. That is usually a formality."
Klecko, 68 and eligible for Hall induction for 30 years, received "The Phoencall" from Hall president Jim Porter informing him of the Seniors vote and was ecstatic.
"You made my day, that's for sure," Klecko said. "I've had too many 'no' phonecalls, and to get this one with a 'yes' is just absolutely exciting.
"It's a great time in the Klecko house."
The road has been long for Klecko and he hasn't reached its conclusion yet, but he has proceeded farther this year than he had in any year previously. He was eligible for the Hall from five years after his retirement as a player, in 1988, first as a Modern-Era candidate and then after 25 years as a Senior, but had never advanced to the finalist stage in any year.
Yet Klecko has all the achievements, awards and accolades one could want to receive the Hall's cherished gold jacket and have his bronzed bust installed in the Hall of Fame Gallery inside the hallowed building on George Halas Drive in Canton.
He was the Jets' sixth-round selection in the 1977 draft and had an immediate impact with 69 games played, 53 starts and 33.5 sacks over his first four seasons. All those sacks were 'unofficial," since the NFL didn't make sacks official until the 1982 season.
Also unofficial were Klecko's career-defining 20.5 sacks in season No. 5, 1981, as he teamed up with Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam to form the short-lived yet dominating "New York Sack Exchange." The Jets defense that season posted 66 sacks, which remains the franchise single-season record.
Klecko was named to the NFL Pro Bowl rosters four times, after the 1981, '83, '84 and '85 seasons. In the process, he became one of the league's rare players to be named to the all-star squads at three different positions — defensive end, defensive tackle and nose tackle.
He was also recognized as an All-Pro first-team selection in 1981 and '85, was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in '81 and was the '82 George Halas Award winner that goes to the NFL player, coach or staffer who overcomes the most adversity to succeed.
Teamwise, Klecko has received every accolade there is. His iconic uniform No. 73 was retired in 2004 and was a member of the New York Jets Ring of Honor's six-member 2010 inaugural class. Jets fans voted him as a member of the New York Jets All-Time Team in 2019.
Now another major award could be in Klecko's future. The Hall of Fame reminds that Senior Finalists' election to the Hall of Fame is not automatic. It should be encouraging to Klecko fans everywhere that since 1972, when the selection of Old-Timer/Senior candidates began, through the Class of 2022, 77 Seniors have been finalists, with 53 of them being inducted in their first year as finalists and another 12 being inducted in a subsequent class.