The New York Jets lost one of their franchise’s first players. Running back Bill Mathis, who was an original member of the Jets, died, the team announced Wednesday. He was 81.
Mathis joined the franchise before it was even called the Jets. His draft rights were held by the Houston Oilers in the 1960 AFL draft. The Jets — who were called the New York Titans at the time — acquired Mathis from the Oilers prior to the first game of the 1960 season.
From there, Mathis was a mainstay with the Titans/Jets. While he saw limited playing time as a rookie, Mathis emerged in his second season with the team, rushing for 846 yards and seven touchdowns. That performance earned Mathis an appearance on the AFL All-Pro team.
Mathis remained with the franchise for the 1963 season, the first in which they became the Jets. He stayed with the Jets the entirety of his NFL career, winning a Super Bowl with the team in 1968. Mathis ran the ball six times for 10 yards, and contributed three catches for 20 yards in the 16-7 win.
Mathis played one more year before retiring. He was regarded highly by his teammates, and was named a team co-captain for his final season in 1969.
Mathis’ cause of death was not announced, though he reportedly “suffered from documented physical and cognitive issues in his later years,” according to Randy Lange of NYJets.com.
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