The New York Jets have taken on the allure of the rock star of the NFL. Like the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, no matter what city they visit it more than likely will be a sellout and demand increased media attention.
The Jets with their in your face preseason HBO reality show, “Hard Knocks,” elevated themselves in the consciousness of many NFL watchers, clearly made many interested in their team and conversely made many wishful that they would fall on their collective faces.
Evidence of the star power of the Jets was on display at Ford Field recently when the Jets helped sell out their contest versus the Lions in over a week prior to the game. The Washington Redskins’ visit to Ford Field was blacked out because it did not sell out.
Helping drive the rock star treated Jets are a trio of Detroiters who are helping fuel New York’s run at a Super Bowl appearance. Linebacker Bart Scott of Southeastern, wide receiver Braylon Edwards from King and Bishop Gallagher and defensive end Vernon Gholston from Cass Tech are all contributing to the Jets’ whirlwind flight through the AFC Eastern Conference.
Edwards and Gholston both left the University of Michigan and Ohio State University with national acclaim earning All-American honors. Scott had to etch his name in the NFL landscape by elevating himself from an undrafted player to a Pro Bowl player.
Scott left Southeastern as a solid but not spectacular player and ended up at a non-football school, Southern Illinois, where he signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2002.
“I think getting into the league like I did made me hungry and appreciate what I’ve accomplished even more,” he said.
Maybe coming into the NFL through the NFL back door indeed gave Scott a special outlook that he has vowed to share. In fact, he continues to return to Southeastern to speak with students, challenging them to aspire for more in life. Not only is he talking the talk, he is putting his money where his mouth is. He has procured new uniforms, weight room equipment and a new set of bleachers after vandals stole the school’s bleachers.
“It is always great to come home,” exclaimed Scott. “I have over 100 family and friends at the game so it was hard to control my emotions. The last time I played at home I was just getting my feet wet in the NFL. So it is great to come home knowing I’ve made it in the league and I can hold my chest up and be proud of my foundation that was formulated right here in Detroit.”
Edwards left UM as its all-time leading receiver and was drafted by the Cleveland Browns third overall in the 2005 NFL Draft. He came into the league with very elevate expectations. After a serious injury his rookie year, he came back and produced a Pro-Bowl type season in 2007, snatching 60 balls for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns.
However, the Browns were in the middle of a rebuilding process and were in the midst of an exchangeable quarterbacks situation, so he was traded to the Jets in 2009 and is trying to bond with second year quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Against the Lions, Sanchez and Edwards bonded well enough to collaborate on a game-changing 74-yard touchdown.
“Man I’m glad we toughed this game out,” Edwards said. “It would have been a tough night dealing with all my Detroit family if we lost.
“I know teams are after us after the Hard Knocks show. But I think this team has the players and the ability to endure all of it and make a real run at the Super Bowl. Yeah, I can say it because that is our team’s goal. If we get there it will be great, but to not put it out there as our goal says what?”
Gholston, drafted sixth overall by the Jets in the 2008 NFL Draft, is the essence of what happens to a talented young football player who weighs between 225 and 235 in high school. More like that player if he is fast will be shifted to defensive end rather that stay at linebacker.
“I do what the coaches ask of me,” said Gholston. “Yeah, I could have been a linebacker, but Ohio State needed me at defensive end so I did what would help the team.”
How he helped the Buckeyes was he set a school record with 14.5 sacks in 13 games. He was drafted by the Jets sixth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
“I’ve been moving back and forth between linebacker and defensive end,” Gholston said. “Coach (Rex) Ryan told me he believes in me and has put me back at defensive end. I just want to do whatever will help this team win games. I’ve worked hard and am prepared to do whatever the coaches need from me to help this team be successful.”
The Motor City trio is front and center in the Jets’ quest for NFL glory!
Leland Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.