Bill Mathis, a versatile running back who was originally a member of the New York Jets franchise, died Tuesday. He was 81 years old.
The team announced his death but did not say where he died or the cause, despite saying that he had been dealing with “physical and cognitive issues” for some time.
Mathis played his entire career in New York. He joined the Titans, as the Jets were originally called, in 1960, the year the American Football League began. He was named the Franchise’s Most Valuable Player and A.F.L. All-Star in 1961 and 1963. And he helped the Jets beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969 in a jaw-dropping surprise.
In his 10-year career, Mathis rushed for 3,589 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also caught 149 passes for 1,775 yards and nine points.
William Hart Mathis was born on December 10, 1938 in Rocky Mount, NC, and grew up in Manchester, Georgia. He was a star at Clemson University in South Carolina and was named a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. He’s also at the Georgia and South Carolina gyms.
In 1960 he was taken over by the two Denver Broncos of the newly founded A.F.L. and the San Francisco 49ers of the N.F.L. His draft rights were later approved by the A.F.L. Houston Oilers, who brought him to New York just before the league’s first season began.
Mathis has built a reputation as a strong competitor who has pushed his way through injuries. A knee injury kept him away from three games in 1962, but he played in each of his 143 games in his ten seasons with the franchise, including the team’s lone Super Bowl appearance.
The star of that game, flamboyant quarterback Joe Namath, was Mathis’ roommate on the street. According to the Jets, Coach Weeb asked Ewbank Mathis to stay with Namath, with instructions to “keep Namath out of trouble”.
After being one of the team’s primary porters early in his career, Mathis became the lead blocker for Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer. He had three catches for 20 yards in the Super Bowl, two of which extended the hits in the Jets 16-7 win.
He then played another season before retiring.
Mathis was one of only 20 players who played in the A.F.L. for the entire 10-year existence of the league. and one of only seven to have won an A.F.L. every 10 seasons. Franchise. The A.F.L. and N.F.L. merged in 1970.
He stayed in New York after his playing career and found success on Wall Street.
Information on survivors was not immediately available.