CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW OF BROADWAY JOE NAMATH FOR A SNEAK PREVIEW OF “CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT: 1965”
by David Plaut, Series Producer
Even the most casual pro football fan is familiar with Joe Namath’s historic $400,000 rookie contract with the New York Jets – which, in 1965, was the largest in sports history. It saved the old American Football League from irrelevance and forever changed the way pro athletes were marketed and valued. But how many fans know anything about the attorney who negotiated this historic deal?
His name is Mike Bite, a force of nature as dynamic in his own way as Broadway Joe. NFL Films journeyed to Birmingham, Alabama last month to interview Mike for NFL Network’s upcoming anthology Caught in the Draft, which returns for its second season beginning April 2.
As millions of Americans scramble to complete their tax returns, Bite will celebrate his 86th birthday on April 15. He possesses the energy of a man half that age — and the oratorical skills that, even today, would make anyone grateful to be his client. Such vitality bursts from the screen every time he appears in the ’65 episode. Bite maintains total recall about his historic negotiations with Jets owner Sonny Werblin, who himself was a top negotiator as talent agent for such stars as Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson and Elizabeth Taylor.
During his senior year at Alabama, Namath was overwhelmed by pro football contract offers and knew he was in over his head. Bite, a fellow ‘Bama alumnus and Namath acquaintance was there to help. “Mike was the only attorney I knew,” admits Namath in the ’65 episode. Lucky for him. By the time Bite was through, he had obtained the biggest dollar amount for any athlete ever – along with Jets front office jobs for three Namath family members – and a Jet-green Lincoln Continental convertible.
The ’65 draft was notorious for broken rules, double-crosses and illegal contracts. Bite was able to avoid all those transgressions by conducting his negotiations without violations. “If Joe had signed early he would have been ineligible to play in the Orange Bowl,” Bite remembers. “I would never do anything to dishonor my university or Coach Bear Bryant. We did not cheat. We played it by the book. That contract was signed on national television. He hadn’t received a penny prior to that time.”
Caught in the Draft premieres exclusively on NFL Network Thursday, April 2 at 9 PM Eastern, featuring the 1965 draft show “Spies, Superstars and Babysitters.” New episodes will follow each week focusing on the ’75, ’85, ’95 and ’05 NFL Drafts.
The Caught in the Draft series is produced by David Plaut and Neil Zender
The episode “Spies, Superstars, and Babysitters” was produced by David Plaut, Jeff Larsen, and Paul Camarata