Larry Grantham, the leader of the Jets’ Super Bowl III defense, has died. He was 78,
Grantham, who played right outside linebacker, was an original member of the New York Titans, who became the Jets in 1963 after three seasons.
Despite being an undersized linebacker at 6-feet, 200 pounds, Grantham was a five-time AFL All-Star during his 13 years with the team and was inducted into the Jets’ Ring of Honor in 2011. His 43 career takeaways remain a franchise record. Grantham also called the defensive alignments for Walt Michaels’ defense.
“I always saw Larry as the captain and the leader,” Jets Super Bowl III defensive end Gerry Philbin told the team’s website. “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 was one of 20 players to play in all 10 seasons of the American Football League’s existence.
In Super Bowl III, Grantham was credited with three tackles and two passes defensed in the Jets’ stunning 16-7 upset of the heavily favored Baltimore Colts.
Grantham starred at the University of Mississippi and was selected to the school’s All-Century Team in 1959. He was drafted in the 15th round by the Colts in 1960, but chose to play in the AFL.
Grantham retired after the 1972 season to join Marty Glickman in the Jets’ WOR radio booth but then came back to play one season in the upstart World Football League for the Florida Blazers.
Grantham became the alumni director for the Super Bowl III team. He also worked with Freedom House, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Glen Gardner, N.J.
Grantham was moved by his Ring of Honor induction.
“That probably climaxes a career and doesn’t take second place to anything,” Grantham said at the time. “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.”
The Jets announced Sunday night that a funeral service for Grantham will be held Wednesday at the First Baptist Church in his hometown of Crystal Springs, Miss.