Interview: Joe Klecko doesn’t forget his Temple roots

Radio Hall of Famer Mike Francesa brings up Temple football to Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Klecko here.

In about only five months, there will be a sea of Green and White and maybe a small lake of Cherry and White in Canton, Ohio for the induction of former Temple and New York Jet football star Joe Klecko into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Perhaps that’s not the way we’d like it to be on this Cherry and White site but that’s the way it will be. My druthers are Ocean of Cherry and White and sea of Green and White but I’m a realist and not necessarily an optimist.

Hell, maybe that’s the way it should be because it is, after all, the “Pro Football Hall of Fame” and not the college one.

Still, it’s only been a week or so and Klecko has seen double twice as far as Hall of Famers go.

He learned that he got into the hall with a knock on the door from fellow New York Jets’ Hall of Famer Joe Namath.

Two days later, he was interviewed by radio Hall of Famer Mike Francesa.

That’s a lot of Hall of Fame to consume in a couple of days and Klecko handled it like a pro.

Francesa, though, has to be the one given the credit for bringing up Temple football for the first time with a reference to Wayne Hardin.

Dan Klecko wearing his dad’s pro number at Temple.

Klecko handled the question like Larry Bowa usually handled a line drive backhand deep into the shortstop hole. Smoothly with a solid throw to first base.

Klecko gave credit to Hardin for preparing him for what was to come. You can hear the complete interview at the top of this post with the Temple part at the 7:37 time stamp but what struck me was Joe didn’t refer to himself as much as his Temple teammates for what Hardin did.

It was a short reference and kind of gave a preview of his acceptance speech, which will be about 92 percent New York Jet oriented.

Up the percentage for the presentation speech because there is no doubt in my mind that son Dan Klecko will give it. If Joe talks mostly about the Jets, we hope Dan will work in the mutual Temple football experience both shared. Hopefully, at least 14 percent of Dan’s speech will be about Joe’s Temple days.

Like Joe, Dan played football at Temple.

Joe was an honorable mention All-American at Temple but it could be argued from a receipts standpoint that Dan had the better college career, as Dan was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year for the Owls and Joe played an independent schedule.

Having seen Joe post 11 sacks in one game at Delaware (before sacks were an official NCAA stat) there was no doubt that Joe was a better college player. That’s no slight on Dan, who might have been the second-best Temple lineman I’ve ever seen. Remember, Temple had 10 sacks AS A TEAM in the 27-10 win over Penn State in 2015 and that was the biggest story coming out of that game.

With the kind of left jab to the helmet that made Joe Klecko the two-time NCAA boxing champion at Temple, he made life miserable for future Detroit Lions’ quarterback Brian Komlo, getting on him no more than one or seconds after the snap. Most of those 11 times, Joe only had to touch him and Komlo was on the ground.

The late great Chuck Newman, who covered Temple football for The Inquirer then, took the microphone in the U. of D. press box that day and announced, “Is there a doctor in the house? The Blue Hens’ center needs one now.”

Everybody laughed, even the guys at the Wilmington News-Journal who hated Temple.

Delaware then was a national championship contender at the FCS level, and Klecko’s sacks came in a 31-8 win before what is still to this day the largest home crowd in Delaware history. Klecko also dominated Pitt All-American center Mike Carey who entered the post-game press conference after the close win over the Owls and simply said this: “Joe was the best player I’ve ever gone against.”

Later, Cincinnati Bengals’ all-pro Anthony Munoz said the same thing at the pro level.

No one has ever been more deserving to get into the Hall than Joe but, from Temple’s perspective, Owl Nation turns its lonely eyes to Dan to work some Temple references into the second most important speech of the day.

Monday: A Most Interesting Candidate

Friday: The AAC Schedule


Breaking Good: Joe Klecko’s chances for HOF

Wayne Hardin has a great quote about Joe Klecko in the middle of this video.

Better Call Saul, probably the best TV series since Breaking Bad had its finale nine years ago, returns tonight for the final few episodes.

For fans like me, the Breaking Bad franchise will finally end as brilliant writer Vince Gilligan goes off to different projects and says no spinoffs are planned.

For the uninitiated, Breaking Bad was the way a good teacher (Walter White) went to become a meth kingpin and Saul Goodman was his lawyer.

Dan and Joe Klecko on Senior Day.

That’s the Breaking Bad story. Today we will talk about something Breaking Good.

Joe Klecko’s chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame broke very well last week when he was named a semifinalist for the 2023 Veterans Class.

In my mind (and the minds of Howie Long, Peter King, Mike Francesa and several other pro football experts), Klekco should have been in there 20 years ago. From a stat standpoint, he probably should have been in there before Long and Warren Sapp because the numbers said he was a more dominating defensive lineman.

Numbers don’t lie but maybe take it from the best offensive lineman of his era, Anthony Munoz (also in the Hall) who said, “Without a doubt, Joe Klecko was the hardest player I’ve ever had to block and it wasn’t even close.”

At Temple, while Tyler Matakevich and Dan Klecko were both good, there is no doubt in my mind that Joe Klecko was the most dominating defensive player in Temple history. I sat in the press box and watched Klecko make future Detroit Lions’ quarterback Brian Komlo’s day a living hell.

Before the largest Delaware Stadium crowd in history (23,619), to this day even, Klecko pushed the center aside and sacked Komlo 11 times in a 31-8 Temple win. That was a pretty good Delaware team that made the national quarterfinals at its level. While the NCAA didn’t keep sacks that year, the reporters in the press box did. Klecko was on Komlo almost at the snap count on five of those sacks. In a 27-10 Temple win over Penn State (2015), the Owls had an impressive 10 sacks as a team.

To think that one player could get 11 in a game is mind-boggling.

At St. James High, Klecko’s team won the City Championship by beating a pretty good Frankford team, 43-0. The Jimmies didn’t attempt a pass the whole game.

KIecko was the only Owl to go from pro football to Temple. (Well, semi-pro.) He kept his college eligibility playing under the assumed name “Jim Jones” for the Aston Knights while working as a truck driver. The Aston Knights equipment manager was also the Temple equipment manager who told head coach Wayne Hardin: “You’ve got to see this guy. He’s unblockable.” Hardin did and the rest was history. Klecko was a two-sport athlete at Temple and won consecutive NCAA boxing titles (when boxing was a college sport).

Klecko was a regular Temple tailgater during Dan’s years (where he was Big East Defensive Player of the Year). The last time I saw him tailgating in Lot K was Dan’s final game.

“Now, Joe, just because Dan’s leaving I hope that doesn’t mean you won’t be back,” I said.

“No, Mike, I’ll be here,” Joe said.

The last time I saw him at Al Golden’s introductory press conference. The two were Colts Neck, N.J. neighbors at the time.

I reminded him of the tailgating story and Joe laughed, saying life had gotten in the way.

Maybe Temple will have him back next season after he gives his Canton, Ohio induction speech. There is nobody in this class more deserving.

Friday: 5 Individual Achievements That Could Happen

July 18: What they’re saying