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Larry Grantham (1938–2017)

by Kirk Fox

Former Jets linebacker who was a five-time AFL All-Star.

Larry Grantham, a former New York Jets linebacker who was a five-time AFL All-Star, died Saturday, June 17, 2017. He was 78.

The Jets announced his death Sunday night.


Grantham was a starting linebacker on the New York Jets team that pulled off the stunning upset of the Baltimore Colts in the 1969 Super Bowl. The upstart Jets, led by quarterback Joe Namath, defeated the Colts 16-7. Grantham had three tackles and two passes defended in that Super Bowl win.

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Grantham was born Sept. 16, 1938, in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. He was a star linebacker at the University of Mississippi. He was selected in the 1960 NFL draft by the Colts. Grantham decided instead to play for the New York Titans in the new AFL league. The Titans became the Jets in 1963. He played his entire career with the Jets, retiring in 1972.

Grantham was an undersized linebacker known for his intelligence and toughness. His 43 takeaways remained a team record at the time of his death.

He was inducted into the Jets Ring of Honor in 2011.

On the Jets website, Grantham said, “That probably climaxes a career and doesn’t take second place to anything. I’m not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and sure, that’s a great, big honor, but to me this honor with the Jets is unbelievable. Just think of all the players they’ve had up there from 1960 till now. It’s something I can’t put into words.”

“I always saw Larry as the captain and the leader,” said Gerry Philbin on the Jets website. Philbin was the Jets’ left end on many of Grantham’s defenses and a fellow member of the Ring’s Class of ‘11. “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.”

Grantham returned to pro football in 1974 to play one season for the Florida Blazers of the World Football League. He was a broadcaster for the Jets briefly after his retirement. Later, he worked in the banking industry.

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