Raymond Abruzzese Jr., played with Jets, Crimson Tide

Posted: September 02, 2011

WHEN Joe Namath was recruited by Sonny Werblin, owner of the American Football League's New York Jets, in 1965, he had a choice between the Jets and the National Football League's Cardinals.

He decided on the Jets, with which he went on to become a Hall of Famer, but told Werblin that he had one condition: that the Jets hire his old University of Alabama roommate, Ray Abruzzese.

Ray, a South Philly kid, was playing defensive back for the AFL's Buffalo Bills at the time. Bills owner Ralph Wilson agreed to let Ray go and he joined Namath on the Jets.

Unfortunately, Ray's career ended in 1966 and he missed out on the legendary upset when Namath led the Jets over the Baltimore Colts to win Super Bowl III, 16-7, in Miami.

Raymond Lewis Abruzzese Jr. died Aug. 22 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 73.

He was born in Philadelphia and attended South Philadelphia High School. He went from there to Hinds Community College, in Mississippi, and then to the University of Alabama.

Both he and Namath played for coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, and, although Ray was five years older than Namath, they roomed together for a time.

Ray was a safety on the Crimson Tide when it won a national championship in 1961.

He was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1962, but opted to go with the Buffalo Bills. He played for the Bills from 1962 to 1964, and was on the team when it won the AFL championship game, 20-7, over the San Diego Chargers in 1964.

Statistics show that Ray played in 61 games in his career, and had 10 interceptions.

After his playing career, he was involved in a number of businesses.

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