In a solemn announcement on Tuesday, we learned of the passing of former New York Jet, Mike D’Amato, a celebrated Super Bowl champion who made history with a critical postseason play back in 1968. At the age of 80, D’Amato succumbed to cardiac arrest, leaving a legacy that will forever be etched in the annals of football history.

D’Amato’s heroic moment came during the AFL Title game against the formidable Raiders, a game that had fans on the edge of their seats. It was D’Amato, alongside the tenacious John Dockery, who thwarted the dangerous punt returner, George Atkinson, just shy of the 22-yard line. In that pivotal moment, they prevented what could have been a game-changing return. The Jets, with unwavering determination, clung to a 27-23 victory, propelling them toward their championship glory.

Before gracing the turf as a Jet, Mike D’Amato had already established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of college sports. His prowess extended not only to football but also to lacrosse during his time at Hofstra. As a senior, he earned the prestigious title of second-team All-American in lacrosse. In football, he was no less impressive, garnering Middle Atlantic Conference All-Star honors in both 1966 and 1967.

One cannot speak of D’Amato’s legacy without acknowledging the pivotal role he played under the mentorship of Jets coach Weeb Eubank. It was with Eubank at the helm that the Jets triumphed over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, with D’Amato’s unwavering dedication and skill aiding in securing a historic 16-7 victory. As a New Yorker through and through, D’Amato reveled in the opportunity to represent his home city on the grandest stage of American football.

Reflecting on that momentous victory, D’Amato once said, “I was ecstatic. I’m a New York guy; it’s a New York team. What could be better?” His enthusiasm for the Jets was palpable, even amidst offers from other teams that promised lofty draft positions. Ultimately, fate had its way, and D’Amato found himself drafted by the Jets, a decision that would forever link his name to the team’s storied history.

His tenure with the Jets was nothing short of remarkable. In his debut season, he made appearances in 13 games, contributing significantly to the Jets’ impressive 11-3 record and their first-ever postseason appearance. The Cinderella story continued as the Jets faced off against the defending AFL-champion Raiders at Shea Stadium, earning a coveted spot in Super Bowl III.

The world watched in awe as the underdog Jets, with an astounding 18.5-point underdog status, defied all odds with their 16-7 victory against the NFL-champion Colts. D’Amato’s presence on the field that day added to the mystique of the moment, legitimizing the merger and establishing a new era of football. It was a game that transcended sport and cemented D’Amato’s name in the annals of football history.

While his time with the Jets concluded that day, D’Amato’s journey continued, taking him north to the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes, where he added another chapter to his illustrious career.

Beyond the football field, D’Amato’s devotion to Hofstra University remained unwavering. He returned as an executive assistant to the university president and later served as a special assistant for alumni affairs, leaving an indelible mark on the institution.

Mike D’Amato leaves behind a legacy that extends far beyond the football field. He is survived by his loving wife, Rita, along with three children and four cherished grandchildren. His memory will forever resonate in the hearts of those who had the privilege of witnessing his remarkable journey.

In the world of football, Mike D’Amato will always be remembered as the hero who helped the Jets soar to their historic Super Bowl victory, a testament to the enduring spirit of the sport and the indomitable human spirit that defines its players.