Jim Turner, Who Kicked the Jets Into Super Bowl History, Dies at 82

Jim Turner, Who Kicked the Jets Into Super Bowl History, Dies at 82

Jim Turner, who fulfilled Joe Namath’s prophecy that the New York Jets would win Super Bowl III in 1969 by kicking three field goals and an extra point, making him the game’s leading scorer, died on Saturday at his home in Arvada, Colo., a suburb of Denver. He was 82.

The Jets and the Denver Broncos, the two teams Turner played for, announced his death.

Turner played professional football for 16 years, with the Jets from 1964 to 1970 and the Broncos from 1971 to 1979. In the 1968-69 season, he kicked 34 field goals and scored 145 points, setting records that stood until 1983, when the New York Giants kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh broke the first and the Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley broke the second.

His success was enabled in part by his endurance: He did not miss any of the 228 regular-season games and eight playoff games of his career.

The most memorable game of Turner’s career was the Jets’s face-off against the Baltimore Colts on the afternoon of Jan. 12, 1969.

The Colts belonged to the older and better established National Football League, while the Jets were part of its upstart competitor, the American Football League. The Super Bowl, held for the first time in 1967, then pitted the best team from each league against the other.

The Colts, led by quarterback Johnny Unitas and coach Don Shula, had beaten the powerhouse Green Bay Packers, winners of the previous two Super Bowls, to qualify for the 1969 championship.

While Unitas and Shula epitomized the stoic masculinity that many fans associated with football, Namath, the Jets’ quarterback, nicknamed Broadway Joe, was a figure of loudmouth swagger, and none of his public comments had ever seemed less creditable than his guarantee that the Jets would become the first A.F.L. team to win the Super Bowl by beating the Colts.

Namath played well — completing 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards, earning him the Most Valuable Player Award — but it was Turner, a decidedly Off Off Broadway figure, who was the decisive player. He provided the Jets with their margin of victory and alone scored more points than the Colts did.

Turner made his biggest impact in the third quarter. The Jets, winning 7-0, controlled the ball for all but three minutes. Turner kicked two field goals of about 30 yards each, making the score 13-0.

In the fourth quarter, the Colts’ defense halted the Jets around the 2-yard line. At the time, the goal posts were on the goal line, instead of at the back of the end zone, making the kick a 9-yard chip shot.

“It’s one of the toughest kicks I ever attempted,” Turner told The Herald Journal News of Utah in 2013.

He made it, setting a record (tied in 1971 by Mike Clark of the Dallas Cowboys) for the shortest field goal in Super Bowl history.

He missed two other field goals during the game, but it didn’t matter. The Colts, hampered by an injury to Unitas and a stout Jets defense, scored only once, on a 1-yard rush by running back Jerry Hill.

Namath’s prediction came true, and the Jets won, 16-7.

James Bayard Turner was born on March 28, 1941, in Crockett, a small town outside San Francisco. His parents were Bethel and Bayard Turner. He played football at Utah State, and began his career with the Jets in 1964.

That same year, he met Mary Kay Roettger at a swimming pool in Crockett. He proposed to her 10 days later, just before the Jets held training camp. They married in 1965.

She survives him, along with their daughters, Lisa, Chris and Alison; his brothers, Paul, Eddie and Jack; his sister, Pat; and eight grandchildren.

Turner was traded to the Broncos in 1971 amid a contract dispute with the Jets. He wound up settling in the Denver area and in later years hosted a sports radio talk show there.

His most prominent appearance in the national media came in 1969, when he made the cover of Sports Illustrated as a representative of the new influence of dedicated place-kickers in football. He gave credit to the overall strategy of his team, and particularly to Namath, for the prominent role he played on the Jets.

“A lot of people criticize us for going after the field goal when we bog down inside the 35,” he said. “But we can afford to do that because we have the luxury of a good defense. Joe knows it’ll turn the ball back to him pretty quick and give us another shot for the seven. Of course, that makes me look a lot better, getting all those attempts.”

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