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Former Clemson Tigers, New York Jets Running Back Has Died

A New York Jets helmet sitting on the field.

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - AUGUST 07: A New York Jets helmet at NY Jets Practice Facility on August 7, 2011 in Florham Park, New Jersey. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Former running back Bill Mathis, one of the unsung stars of the original AFL and a member of the New York Jets' historic Super Bowl III, has passed away. He was 81 years old.

Mathis was a star running back at Clemson from 1957 to 1959, leading the team in yards from scrimmage in 1959. His success in college led to him going in the first round of the inaugural 1960 AFL Draft, but in the eighth round of that year's NFL draft.

Mathis chose the AFL, and was acquired by the then-Titans of New York before the start of their first season. He quickly established himself as one of the fledgling league's top running backs, earning All-AFL honors in 1961 despite playing most of the season with a broken collarbone.

When Joe Namath arrived in 1965 though, Mathis' role changed as he became tasked with keeping the injury-prone superstar upright. He excelled as a blocker, but saw his role reduced even more with the emergence of Emerson Boozer and Matt Snell.

Mathis continued to contribute for the Jets though, missing only three games in 10 years.

But he saved his biggest contributions to the Jets for the biggest stage.

In Super Bowl III, Bill Mathis had three catches for 20 yards - third on the team - as the Jets upset the Baltimore Colts to win the AFL's first Super Bowl.

He retired the following year, making him one of only a few players to play all 10 seasons of the AFL, and one of even fewer to play all 10 seasons for a single team.

Mathis was inducted into the Clemson University Hall of Fame, the South Carolina (state) Hall of Fame, and the Georgia (state) Hall of Fame.

Our hearts go out to Mr. Mathis' family and loved ones.