Bob Talamini, one of the greatest players in AFL history, died at age 83 last week. Talamini made his mark with the Houston Oilers for eight seasons before finishing his career with the New York Jets and starting in Super Bowl III. He was an Associated Press First Team All-Pro selection three times and an AFL First Team selection four times.
Talamini was drafted by the Oilers in their first season in 1960, earning the starting left guard spot in 1960 and never relinquishing the spot in his career with Houston. He earned five AFL All-Star selections and was a league first or second team selections six times, winning two AFL titles with the Oilers in the league’s first to seasons of existence. Talamini found his way to the Jets after a contract dispute with Houston, signing with New York for the 1968 season after the Jets traded for his rights. Talamini had retired from the AFL prior to the trade.
Talamini made his way into the starting lineup after replacing the injured Randy Rasmussen in that 1968 season, starting eight of the final nine games. The underdog Jets ended up getting Rasmussen back for the Super Bowl, but they had to move around the offensive line with Sam Walton unavailable for the game. Dave Herman (right guard) moved to right tackle while Rasmussen filled in for Walton at right guard. Talamini started at left guard.
“Bob was a gift from the football gods,” Joe Namath told the New York Post in 2020. “That was one of the greatest moves Weeb ever made, getting Bob to come out of retirement and join our team in ’68. … If it wasn’t for having Bob Talamini, we don’t win the championship.”
Talamini and left tackle Winston Hill were the catalysts for Matt Snell’s touchdown in the Super Bowl III, a left sweep run that gave the Jets a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. The Jets wouldn’t relinquish the lead in the 16-7 upset over the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts, proving the AFL’s legitimacy, with the leagues merging two years later.
Super Bowl III was Talamini’s final professional football game, as he retired after the Jets’ upset victory over the Colts. Talamini started 113 of his 126 career games in the AFL and was a Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade selection in the 1960s. He was also a second team selection on the AFL All-Time Team. Born in Louisville, he played college ball at the University of Kentucky.