Last night, I was invited to an event held by Trinity Financial Sports & Entertainment by my boss at Marks & Klein, LLP. The event was a charity golf tournament, cocktail hour, dinner, and charity auction honoring Joe Klecko of the New York Jets and Nick Fotiu of the New York Rangers. All proceeds from the event went to Good News International Ministries and The Nick Fotiu Foundation.
There were a bevy of heavy hitters there, among which were Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons, Ray Lucas, Fred Baxter, Bruce Harper, and Greg Buttle. I spoke to some of them, and here are some stories that they told me:
- When GM John Idzik was fifteen years old in 1976, his father became the offensive coordinator of the Jets. He was the coordinator until 1979. Klecko told me that after he was drafted in 1976, he would sometimes drive "Little Johnny" to school. It's crazy to me how these things come full circle.
- After spending 1993-2000 with the Jets, Baxter went to the Chicago Bears briefly, and then the New England Patriots, where he won a Super Bowl. Baxter joked to me that he had "one foot in and one foot out" with the Patriots, as he is a Jets fan at heart. Lucas calls him, "my tight end."
- Before Buttle was drafted, he played his college football at Penn State. He spoke about how on all of his visits when he was trying to decide what school to go to, everyone kept talking to him about football, and only about football. When he went to Penn State, they didn't mention it at all to him. All they talked about was how much he would love the school, how the social life was great, how fraternities worked, etc. That's what sealed the deal.
- Similarly, Buttle said it was never about winning with Joe Paterno. He said that Paterno never brought up winning during his pre-game and halftime speeches. Instead, he'd talk about how hard they had worked, and to play as hard as they'd practice.
- Klecko also told a story about a time he played against the Cincinnati Bengals. After the snap, the opposing tight end cut blocked him. Klecko was furious and chased after the guy, tried to punch him, and missed. Players started grabbing at each other before it was broken up. Klecko then went into the opposing team's huddle, turned to legendary left tackle Anthony Muñoz and two other players and said, "If he cuts me again, I'm kicking your ass, your ass, and your ass." Later, Muñoz came up to him and said, "Don't worry Kleck, we took care of him." That's how much Klecko was respected by opposing teams.
Those are just a few of the stories I heard, but perhaps the most important one was Lyons talking about why Klecko was so successful. In his words, Klecko demanded so much of himself and the other players on the team that they couldn't help succeeding. For example, when Lyons tried to leave practice early, Klecko told him that he doesn't get to leave until everyone else does. Now, as Klecko gets honored, you can see just how much that paid off.
Congratulations to Joe Klecko. Hopefully your next stop will be the Hall of Fame.