THE ROCK BOTTOM JETS
Thick thighs save lives!
Well, they saved my life at least.
I started playing football in H.S. at the age of 14. Honestly, I knew football was my calling. I felt spiritually connected to the game. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but it’s true. I can remember putting my helmet on for the first time. It felt like an escape. I would say a small prayer and kiss my helmet one time before I stepped on to the field. The prayer was me asking the football gods for protection and luck.
But when it came to the rest of my uniform something always felt off.
For starters, I hated wearing socks. My feet would sweat like a southern pastor standing outside of an abortion clinic. And God I hated that feeling as my feet would slide around in my cleats. Hell, if I could of played barefoot I would have.
I stopped wearing a cup because it was uncomfortable as fuck, and I found it to be pointless. In my eyes, if you got hit in the nuts on the field, then you probably deserved it.
However, there was this one time I was playing the San Diego Chargers and their outside linebacker at the time, #95 Shaun Philips (that cum guzzler), pinched my balls so damn hard that I farted and squealed at the same time.
He was upset because I pancaked him and he wanted me to get off him asap. Well, it worked, but I didn’t deserve that. I was just putting In work. I hate him to this day because of it.
You see, I agree with Deion Sanders when he says, "You look good, you feel good, you play good." Being an offensive linemen you rarely get to look good in your uniform, and you come to realize that it comes with the job. The camera will catch you in action and expose some unflattering angles of you. Either your ass is crack out, or your love handles rolling over your belt loop.
And don’t get me started on white jerseys… OY VEY!
2002 was my sophomore year at Hofstra, and I reported to camp feeling somewhat rattled. I was originally recruited to play on the defensive line for the Hofstra Pride. However, during the spring, I was asked to switch over to offensive line.
Allow me to back track a little.
My freshman year at Hofstra they recruited another defensive tackle to compete with me for the starting nose tackle spot. We were force to battle it out, and he won, so I rode the bench and watched him start. But they didn’t give up on me. They offered me another role- A switch over to the O-line, where the offensive coordinator felt like I could make an immediate impact.
I agreed to switch to over, even though I loved playing defense and being asked to switch positions felt like a demotion. All my friends were on defense and I knew how they felt about offensive linemen. Defensive guys considered offensive linemen fat, slow, boring, and unathletic. Since that's not me, I decided to change that perception.
So here I am, ready to embrace the challenge of going into a training camp with a new position. And the one way I could seek comfort is by making sure I felt good in the uniform. I had to find my new fit, since I would have no more defensive colored jerseys. I’m rolling with the offense, and it was time to get my new practice uniform.
But there was a problem.
I had grown 2 inches in height, put on about 30 pounds that off-season. I went from 270 to 300. And not just fat because I went HARD in the weightroom that offseason. I wanted to play, and I wanted to play NOW.
No more riding the bench for Willie. Fuck that!
When I received my practiced uniform, I immediately had a problem. My pants didn't fit. Easy enough problem to fix, just get a bigger size. So I ran down to the equipment staff and asked for new pants. My equipment manager simply turned around and said, "Nope. That’s the biggest size we have."
I said, "That's impossible. What the fuck am I going to do?"
So our equipment staff made a call across the street to the New York Jets. The New York Jets called Hofstra University home for their practices for almost 41 years before leaving Long Island on September 2, 2008.
My head coach Joe Gradi (may God rest his soul) served from 1976 to 1984 as an assistant coach for the New York Jets, so we had an in.
Right before we took the field for our first padded practice, I was called to the equipment room to try on my new practice pants. There they were laying on the counter and were all white with a green stripe going right down each side of the leg.
I tried the pants on, and they felt like Versace himself made specifically for me.
So, here I am playing a new position, with new pair of practice pants that I felt I could fight crime in.
Needless to say, I went on to have a helluva training camp. I earned a starting position (despite the laughter at my fancy pants), and the rest is history.
I was proud to wear those pants. And, I get it, most of you are reading this and saying, "Oh great. Willie thinks his practice pants gave him superpowers."
Those tight white pants were symbolic. They were a reminder that it doesn’t matter how you start. You just need to adjust to your reality, and don’t ever give up on yourself. That way, you can always write your own story.
And ignore the haters. Every man on that field put their pants on one leg at a time. I was proud of my ability to transition, and I took pride in my new position. I was the only guy on the team with a different pair of pants, and I was getting laugh at and labeled a fat-ass. My friends doubted my ability to play right tackle. Some thought I would go back to defensive line. And others thought I wouldn’t make it at all.
In 2013 I signed with the New York Jets. Prior to that, I was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers, an organization I thought I would retire with. But my new reality was that I was joining a team that went 8-8 in 2012, and they were preyed upon by the New York media.
The Tim Tebow/Mark Sanchez Show was a circus in itself. On top of that, the true veteran leadership the Jets once had was no longer around. In 2014 we went 4 and 12, and I honestly erased that whole year of football from my brain. We were god-awful, and felt like the Dark Ages.
I believe that’s whyI have so much sympathy for the current 0-8 Jets. A lot of what these players are going through isn’t their fault. The Jets don’t have a culture or a standard for which these players can live by.
The New York Jets have drafted defensive players in the first round for the last 10 years They've had 4 general managers in the last 9 years. Since sexy Rex Ryan was kicked out the door, the Jet have had 2 head coaches take a shot at running the team, and there’s a lot more fuckery to add to this dumpster fire of a resume. I just don’t have the time.
Now, once again, they find themselves trying to reboot, rebuild, and create a winning team. But before they do that, they have to make a couple of hard decisions. What are they going to do with Sam Darnold, who was at one time consider the “Jesus Christ of ladder day saints for the New York Jets”? He's out of tonight's game against the Pats with a bum shoulder. The kid is only 23-years-old, but he looks likes he smokes two packs of cowboys killers a day and works the night shift at the CVS on 8th Ave.
Joe Flacco will be starting, but I’m pretty sure he’s not thrilled about that.
The Jets have no run game, no pass rusher, no wide receivers, and no leadership. Hell, I don’t even think they serve Gatorade anymore on the sideline. They started giving the Jets Jolt Cola instead just to keep them in the game.
Adam Gase hasn’t lived up to the hype or his ability to be a quarter back whisperer.
The team is currently pulling its hair out trying to decide if they want to keep Sam Darnold, take on his 5th year option (which would cost the Jets $25 million), or trade him to the 49ers.
The New York Jets have 9 draft picks at the moment, including six that will fall in the top 102 picks in this year's NFL Draft. I like Joe Douglas but there is a lot on his shoulders. He not only has to choose the right men to be apart of the franchise, he has to find men that love the game of football. Men with strong character, who have the will to win at all cost.
The Jets at one time had men like that. Guys like David Harris, D’ Brickashaw Fergurson, Nick Mangold, Wayne Chrebet, and Curtis Martin. And each of those men shared the same experience I did. They put on their practice pants time after time and accepted their reality. They earned the respect of their peers, and shh'ed the doubters.
Make no mistakes about it, this is rock-bottom for the New York Jets, but it’s time for them to regain their pride and claw their way out of the grave they put themselves in.
There is no time for finger pointing or bitching. The Jets want a team a blue collar and battle-ready team that represents a time in New York City where a working man got up every morning despite all the odds that were against him.
That type of man put his pants on one leg at a time and went to work.
For Joe Douglas, all I can say is, "Don’t give up, and ignore the haters."
Jets fans are counting on you to turn this around franchise around.
You're on the clock.