The Jets chose 16 players during the 17-round NFL Draft in 1972. But only one was a defensive end – Joe Jackson.
"My agent told me I was going in the first two rounds. They went by, and then the third, fourth, and fifth. I said, 'Forget it, man. I probably won't get drafted at all.' So I came back on campus and somebody says, 'Hey, New York drafted you,'" said Jackson, who was taken in the sixth round out of New Mexico State.
"I was surprised because I never even had a questionnaire, never talked to anybody from the Jets personnel. No one seemed to show any interest for me from a New York team. So I was pretty shocked, but I was glad."
The league was much different 50 years ago.
Then, there were 442 players selected in the Draft. Today, 262.
Then, training camp lasted eight weeks, mid-July through the first week of September. Today, training camp is 22 days, July 30 through August 20.
Then, there were six preseason games. Today, three.
One advantage of practicing for two months is that Jackson was able to get a hands-on education by going head-to-head against one of the best in the game, Hall of Fame offensive tackle Winston Hill.
"I was really close to Winston and Paul Crane and Earlie Thomas. But Winston, mainly," Jackson said. "We played opposite each other, and he was really a great offensive tackle. So it was great to have success against him in practice. Winston was not only a great player, but he was a great friend. He was a great mentor."
Pocketing the gridiron knowledge he gained from Hill and his position coach Buddy Ryan, Jackson was more than ready to face someone who wasn't wearing a Jets practice jersey.
"My first preseason game, I think Mark Lomas was hurt or something, so I was a starter. I got to start against the Niners in Jacksonville," Jackson said. "It was unbelievable. I was so excited, and I remember (veteran free safety) W.K. Hicks said, 'Hey Rook, watch out. They're going to be testing you.' But it all worked out. I had a pretty good game. Knocked down (San Francisco quarterback) Steve Spurrier's pass. It was just really a dream come true, to be honest, how things played out for me."
Things played out well during the regular season, too. In Week 9 at Shea Stadium against Buffalo, the rookie became very acquainted with Bills quarterback Dennis Shaw.
"We beat them, 41-3. They put guys like myself and Eddie Galigher in in maybe the third or fourth quarter, and I sacked Dennis Shaw three times. That was quite an accomplishment for me," said Jackson, who finished the season with four sacks, tying for third on the team with Gerry Philbin.
After two seasons with the Jets, Jackson went on to play in the World and Canadian Football Leagues over the next five seasons, including a three-game stint with the Minnesota Vikings in 1977.
"It's '74, and the New York Stars, our defensive line was pretty much Jet players. (Gerry) Philbin, (John) Elliott, and myself," Jackson said. "I really loved the WFL. I wish it could have made it. It was just a fun league.
"The CFL was really one of the worst decisions I've ever made because I should have just waited. But I wasn't getting any calls from the NFL. So I get a call from the Eskimos and said, 'Forget it. I'm going to sign with Edmonton.'
"So I went to Canada, and we did win the Grey Cup, but I signed under the condition that if an NFL team contacted me, they would let me out of the contract. Well, I get a call from (then-Washington Redskins GM) Bobby Beathard.
"I was excited. I went and told the Eskimos, and, of course, they said, 'You know we can't do that, Joey.' The next year, I was cut in camp and that was it. I never even got a (championship) ring. I actually contacted them three weeks ago and they said, 'Oh, we'll call you right back.' Yeah, I'm going to call them again and see if I can get that ring."
Grey Cup ring-free, Jackson stayed in Minneapolis following his time with the Vikings and began to teach high school English. That would prove to be beneficial in both directions. The students were getting an education and Jackson was getting over a fear of public speaking, and indirectly into becoming an evangelist (in 1986).
"I had to call the roll. I had to read from books like Dante's Inferno. It was a process that I believe God led me to because I would have never picked this type of work," Jackson said.
"And after five years, I was cut from teaching. Last hired, first fired. So I said to the Lord, 'What's next?' So I began to contact some churches, and just felt like this was God's plan for my life.
"In '88, I moved to Phoenix and got involved with Athletes International Ministry of Christ, but I had begun my evangelism work in '84. I preach in churches and I do a lot of Men's Ministry, like a Saturday men's breakfast at a church.
"I enjoy preaching. I enjoy being with people, interacting with people. It's just so amazing. I was pretty much fearful of public speaking and yet this is how I earn my living. And I thank God for bringing me to this place. God has opened doors for me. I'm just, again, so grateful and so honored that he's calling me to this work."
Jackson, whose memoir, Championship Sunday: An Uncommon Pursuit of a Dream, which includes a foreword by Joe Namath, was published last year. He and his wife, Terrill, still make their home in Phoenix, and have a daughter, Olivia, and a grandson, Emmitt.
And so what's the best thing about being Joe Jackson today?
"This thing for me is the fulfillment of a dream and the evolution of my life in terms of accomplishing some things that I thought were impossible," he said. "Like the speaking, that confidence I've had to develop over the years. But it's my family. It's really not too much about me, but my family."