- Sonny Werblin
David A. "Sonny" Werblin (
March 17, 1907- November 21, 1991) was an owner of the New York Jets.
As Vice President of the
Music Corporation of America, Werblin had been a major power broker in Hollywoodfor years. In 1963, he and his partners purchased the American Football League(AFL) Titans of New York from original owner Harry Wismer. Bringing his showbiz savvy to bear, Werblin changed the team's name to the Jets, and drafted Matt Snellin the first round, signing him away from the NFL's Giants. His biggest coup came in 1965, when for $400,000 he signed University of Alabamaquarterback Joe Namath, who had been drafted by the NFL St. Louis Cardinals. Werblin's success was a contributing factor to the NFL's merger with the AFL. However he and the Oakland Raiders' Al Davisstrongly resisted the indemnity the NFL demanded, of $100,000 per year for twenty years. The less warlike AFL owners agreed to the terms, along with stripping the name and logo from the AFL, to which many important aspects of pro football are now credited.
Werblin was fired by Jets management prior to the 1968 season, which concluded with the team winning
Super Bowl IIIover the Baltimore Colts in one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Newark Star-Ledgersports columnist Jerry Izenberg would later speculate that, because the Jets fired Werblin, there was a "Curse of Sonny Werblin" on the team.
However, since the firing took place before the great victory, this seems to be an insufficient explanation for the Jets' inability to reach the
Super Bowlsince that game on January 12, 1969. By an unusual coincidence, Werblin and Izenberg were elected to the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jerseyin the same year, 1997. Werblin became the president of Madison Square Garden in the late 1970's and was influential in helping Phil Esposito reach his decision to retire from the New York Rangers.
Werblin was a graduate of
Rutgers University. The school built the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center on its Busch Campus, near Rutgers Stadiumin Piscataway, New Jersey, across the Raritan Riverfrom its main campus in New Brunswick. The Center is home to weight-training facilities and the University's main venues for water-sports competition and volleyball.
Werblin was married to actress Leah Ray up until the time of his death.
* [http://www.bnaibrith.org/jahmfacts.cfm Jewish American Heritage Month]
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