It was a simple image. A jump for joy. A moment of youthful exuberance almost as iconic as the one with his more-decorated teammate running off the field with his finger raised high.
For a man who made his name with his ability to get to the football, this was a fitting final act in a decade-long journey to take his team from their humble beginnings to the top of the football world.
The minute the game was over the first thing on my mind was the game ball, to go get the football. And I got the football and then on all I remember doing was the vertical leap ... I think mine might have been a world record. Because all I knew was, it was probably the happiest, most fantastic moment of my life.*
(*Quote taken from NY Jets - A Complete History).
I was saddened to hear the team's announcement that Larry Grantham passed away over the weekend. Grantham, an original Titan, the franchise leader in takeaways and a key member of the Super Bowl winning 1968 Jets leaves behind a tremendous on-field legacy. However, for many it will be the courage and kindness he displayed off the field that defines him.
Post-retirement, Grantham was often involved with helping out former teammates and sought to keep his football fraternity strong. For two decades he was involved in supporting, promoting and raising funds for Freedom House, a residential treatment home in New Jersey.
Back in 2009, Grantham fell upon hard times as he was battling with cancer. He was set to auction off his Super Bowl ring as he struggled to pay off debts caused by the mounting costs of his treatment. However, Jets fans - spearheaded by TheJetsBlog's Brian Bassett - clubbed together to raise enough money to enable him to keep his prized possession.
After I had donated a small amount of money to this cause, Grantham took the time to send a hand-written letter expressing his gratitude. I still have the letter which serves as a treasured reminder that good people will always be there for those who deserve them and generosity has its own rewards.
Nevertheless, it's as a sure-tackling, inspirational on-field leader that Grantham will be most widely remembered. His former defensive coordinator Walt Michaels apparently called him one of the smartest players he ever coached and legendary Jets defensive end Gerry Philbin described him as the captain of the defense and "pound for pound [...] the best player on the Jets."
In 2011, Grantham was selected as a member of the Jets Ring of Honor, a fitting accolade for a player who was a mainstay for 13 years, a five-time all-star and a one-time team MVP.
Our sympathies go out to Grantham's friends and family. If you would like to learn more about or donate money to Freedom House, click here.