It’s not every day that a former quarterback jumps on the ticket of a pretty unpopular presidential candidate. Yet that’s exactly what Jack Kemp did, and he pulled it off pretty damn well. Not as well as he was a Bills quarterback, but pretty well nonetheless. It’s just part of what stands out the morning after he passed away, at age 73, after a relatively short battle with cancer.
(The flat top was always cool on Kemp.)
By now, most people remember Kemp for his campaigning with former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, who made up the unsucessful Republican duo that ran against Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1996. But that covers up a remarkably successful playing career in Buffalo, where Kemp was the 1965 AFL player of the year by leading the Bills to their first winning season. That followed a long successful tenure with the San Diego (first the L.A.) Chargers, after which he served as the president of the AFL’s Players Association for five years.
Wanna reminisce? Don’t worry, we’ve got highlight footage from 1964 after the break. Yes, that’s before the inception of NFL Films, as strange as a time before NFL Films may seem.
Still, the moment that may stand out more than any others in Kemp’s career was a game early in his American career — he started in the Canadian Football League — in 1961, when his hand was “crushed” in a game and had it re-set in a football grip. The injury left one of his fingers permanently curled in a passing position, much like Dole’s right hand was always clutched around a pen from a battle wound. Add in the two severely broken ankles Kemp suffered while in the AFL, and he can pretty farely be considered one of the great early tough guy quarterbacks.
Oh, and Kemp didn’t just play quarterback; he also played safety, punter and place kicker for Occidental, where he always co-opted the spotlight among the school’s political alumni until last year, when this fellow named Barack Obama won the one election Kemp never did.
So, what will people remember about Kemp? His passing efficiency? His commitment to upstate New York after his football retirement? His toughness in recovering from injuries? His campaigning with Bob Dole? His lifelong support of supply side economics (yeah, we even bored ourselves writing that last sentence)?
Whatever it is, all the motivators are laudable ones, just as Kemp was a laudable man, regardless of your political affiliation.