Jets mourn loss of longtime great Winston Hill

Winston Hill, a former Super Bowl champion and one of the most revered players in New York Jets history, died Tuesday night at his home in Denver, the team announced.

He was 74.

Hill, who protected Joe Namath's blindside during the Jets' only Super Bowl season, in 1968, was one of football's most decorated offensive linemen in the 1960s and '70s. He was a four-time AFL All-Star and a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

An original member of the Jets' Ring of Honor, Hill was known for his elite pass protection and his durability. He played in 195 consecutive games from 1964 to '76, once playing with a broken leg in the preseason.

"I was very sad to hear of the passing of Winston Hill," Jets owner Woody Johnson said. "He was our most decorated player with a franchise-record eight All-Star game appearances. And as accomplished as he was on the field, he was an even better person whose profound impact on his teammates and those who came in contact with him left an impression for a lifetime.

"He was the type of man who if you were his friend, you thought you were his best friend. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and many friends of one of the Jets' all-time greats."

His performance in Super Bowl III helped the Jets to a historic upset of the Baltimore Colts, the team that drafted Hill in the 11th round in 1962 and cut him a year later. His blocking helped Matt Snell rush for 121 yards and a touchdown in the Jets' 16-7 win.

"Winnie was like my brother," former center John Schmitt told the Jets' official website on Tuesday. "He was a terrific football player. His heart was as big as his body. He did not have a bad thing to say about anyone. I am going to miss that turkey."

A former Texas Southern standout, Hill was signed by the Jets one day after being released by the Colts, and he became a fixture on the offensive line until 1976. He finished his career with the Los Angeles Rams in 1977, as did Namath.

"It was great to protect Joe all those years," Hill said in 2010, when he was selected for the Ring of Honor. "You come across great people in a lifetime, and he's one of them. He was a very special ballplayer and elevated everyone else's play."

Hill, walking with the aid of a cane, made an appearance at MetLife Stadium last fall for the Ring of Honor ceremony. In addition to Hill, the Jets' Ring of Honor includes Namath, defensive lineman Joe Klecko, running back Curtis Martin, wide receiver Don Maynard and coach Weeb Ewbank.

After retiring from football, Hill opened a ribs and barbecue restaurant in Denver.