Joe Namath Is Intercepted for the Last Time, He Says, by Aspiring Actress Deborah Mays

updated 11/26/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

Say It Ain't So, Joe!" pleaded a New York newspaper the day after the startling event, but as Shoeless Joe Jackson was reputed to have said back in 1919: "Yes, kid, I'm afraid it is." After a stellar career as one of America's premier passers—not to mention as a top-notch pro football quarterback—Broadway Joe Namath, 41, kissed bachelorhood goodbye in a November 7 poolside wedding to Deborah Lynn Mays, 22, in Fort Lauderdale. Appropriately enough, the ceremony concluded not to the strains of Pachelbel or Wagner but to the sounds of signal-calling, the thud of shoulder pads and band music from a junior high football game next door.

"It was beautiful," gushed mother-of-the-bride Shirley Mays, referring, one presumes, to the wedding and not the football game. The bride grew up in Pennsylvania farm country (where she became an accomplished horsewoman), briefly attended Sweet Briar College in Virginia and had embarked upon a TV (The Greatest American Hero) and commercial career when she encountered Namath 14 months ago at their voice coach's studio in Los Angeles. "I think she's been with him ever since," says Mrs. Mays.

Settling down means a drastic change of game plan for the quarterback-turned-actor, a born scrambler whose off-the-field scrimmages with the opposite sex have become as legendary as the New York Jets' upset victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III back in '69. Although women across the States may be gloomily scratching his name off their lists, one lady in Beaver Falls, Pa. is decidedly euphoric. "Marriage is the best thing in the world for him," says Joe's mom, Rose Szolnoki, 71, who was forced to miss the wedding because of a bad reaction to a flu shot. "I've been telling him for years, 'Hurry up and get married while I'm still living. I want to see you with a little Joey.' "

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