Former Jet Mike D’Amato, who made a crucial postseason tackle for the 1968 champions, died in November, it was announced Tuesday. He died of cardiac arrest at 80.
In the AFL Title game against the Raiders, D’Amato and John Dockery pushed out dangerous punt returner George Atkinson at the 22-yard line when it looked like Atkinson might have room for a bigger return. The Jets held on for a 27-23 win.
D’Amato was a collegiate star in both football and lacrosse at Hofstra.
In lacrosse, he was second-team All-American as a senior and in football he was a Middle Atlantic Conference All-Star in 1966 and 1967.
Head coach Howdy Myers called him “the finest defensive back” he ever coached.
“I was ecstatic,” D’Amato said of joining the Jets in 2021. “I’m a New York guy, it’s a New York team, what could be better? And as a matter of fact, I had calls from other teams. Some of them said, ‘We’re going to get you in the third round’ or ‘We’re going to get you in the fifth round.’ But I was pleasantly surprised when I was drafted by the Jets.”
He appeared in 13 games as the Jets finished 11-3 and made the postseason for the first time in franchise history.
The Jets beat the defending AFL-champion Raiders at Shea Stadium to earn a spot in Super Bowl III against the NFL-champion Colts.
New York, 18.5 point underdogs, pulled off the one of the biggest upsets in sports history with a 16-7 win, a game that “just legitimized the whole merger. It gave the whole merger credibility, and our league credibility,” D’Amato later recalled.
It was his final game with the Jets and he would play one season with the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes.
D’Amato would later return to Hofstra as an executive assistant to the president and eventually served as special assistant to the president for alumni affairs.
He is survived by his wife Rita, three children and four grandchildren.
This story originally appeared on NYPost