Winston Hill, a reliable Jets offensive lineman who made eight All-Star teams and protected the blindside of quarterback Joe Namath during the team’s only Super Bowl victory, in 1969, died on Tuesday in Denver. He was 74.
His death was announced by the Jets. His sister Sharon Hill Cranford said the cause was heart failure.
Hill joined the Jets in 1963, the first year they played under that name. (The previous name was the Titans.) In his rookie year, he began a streak of 195 consecutive games played, including 174 consecutive starts. Both streaks remain Jets records.
Playing left tackle, right tackle and center, Hill was responsible for keeping Namath’s jersey clean from attacking defenders. He was part of a line that helped Matt Snell run for 121 yards and a touchdown in the Jets’ underdog win over Baltimore in Super Bowl III, still remembered for Namath’s brash guarantee of victory.
Baltimore drafted Hill in the 11th round in 1963 out of Texas Southern University, where he was an all-American, but he was released by the Colts before ever playing for them and signed with the Jets. After 14 seasons with the Jets, Hill played his final one in 1977 with the Los Angeles Rams.
“Winston is a very analytical person, always searching for a better method of doing things,” Wimp Hewgley, the Jets’ offensive coach, said in 1971. “He’s always asking if he’s doing the correct thing. If not, he wants to know why. It’s the kind of thing you would expect from a rookie, not someone who has been around all these years.”
Hill was born on Oct. 23, 1941, in Joaquin, Tex., and was a high school tennis champion in Gladewater, Tex.
In addition to his sister Ms. Cranford, he is survived by his mother, Eulalia Hill Allen; his daughters, Hovlyn Hill May and Heather Hill; his son, Marc-Arthur Hill; two other sisters, Brenda Cole and Rhonda Saldivar; and three grandchildren.
After retiring in 1977, Hill opened a barbecue restaurant in Denver. In 1991, he opened another one with Ron Mitchell, naming it Winston Hill’s Ribs and Stuff, which remains open. He continued to work there, often sitting down and chatting with customers, until health problems emerged in recent years, Mitchell said.
Hill was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and often discussed the power of meditation and prayer. Heather Hill said he had coached and mentored young football players at the Joe Namath Football Camp for 44 years.