The recently passed Larry Grantham is not only the greatest linebacker in New York Jets history, he exemplified the team’s slogan.
Grantham was a catalyst in shutting down the Baltimore Colts, playing linebacker and defensive play caller during the historic AFL-NFL matchup. He ambitiously chose the AFL over the NFL after being drafted in 1960.
He was a sensation at the University of Mississippi, being named to the “All-Century Team” in 1959, a credit to his speed and tackling ability. He would bring the same skill set to the New York Jets.
In 13 years with the New York franchise, Grantham only missed a total of seven games. To his credit, he was a Super Bowl champion, AFL champion, 1971 team MVP and a five-time AFL All-Star.
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After his playing days were over, Grantham battled alcoholism and throat cancer. Grantham took the initiative not only to get sober, but to help others with addiction as well. For many years, Grantham contributed his time to raise money and bring awareness to the disease.
As per the team’s official website, Philbin said of Grantham, “I always saw Larry as the captain and the leader. His football knowledge, the way he skirted around blockers and made tackles, he just surprised a lot of people. Pound for pound, he was the best player on the Jets.”
Choosing to join the AFL over being selected in Round 15 of the NFL draft, came to define Grantham as a player. His road less traveled approach, not only gave him recognition throughout the league, but garnered the respect of his teammates.
Grantham was a rare breed of player, one of durability and tenacity. Many of us didn’t get a chance to see those early Jets teams, considered the “golden era” of the franchise.
From a historical perspective, players that most resemble the type of player that Grantham was, would be a player like Mo Lewis or David Harris. Not an all-time great, but good enough to leave an impact to future generations of Jets linebackers.