Trenton Cannon Jersey

NFL special teams units have parallels to MLB bullpens in that the faces frequently change and it’s hard to stay on top. After the Jets’ special teams units were arguably the best in football, coordinator Brant Boyer will attempt to duplicate the success the Green & White had in 2018 with some different personnel.

At the conclusion of his hour-long session with reporters at the NFL League Meetings, Jets head coach Adam Gase was asked about free agent pickup Josh Bellamy.

“I love Bellamy. Bellamy is one of those guys that can play all three spots at the wide receiver position, and he’s a really good special teams player,” Gase said. “This guy has never had a bad day in his life — I promise you that. This guy brings juice all day long. You talk about a guy that loves hitting the practice field, he loves being in meetings and he loves being in the locker room. He loves playing football and he’s infectious. When you see Josh and you’re a coach, you get juiced up because you see he infects everybody. He is a fire starter.”

Upon signing with the Jets, Bellamy said he was comfortable playing on all four special teams units and added that he wanted to be the backup kicker. Gase, who was the Bears’ offensive coordinator in 2015, loved the 6’0”, 206-pounder’s competitiveness as Bellamy contributed with 19 catches for 224 yards with two touchdowns.

“The year I was with him in Chicago, he was one of our starters. This guy was a former DB. He caught six balls in a game and that was the most he’d ever caught in his life, including high school,” Gase said. “I learned what a competitor he was, I learned what a worker he was. He is a self-made guy. He has made himself who he is at this point in his career. He’s a fun guy to coach and guys love playing with him. I’m excited to just be around him again.”

Backup linebacker Neville Hewitt and reserve safety Doug Middleton will both be donning green & white again after re-signing this offseason. Hewitt (12 tackles) and Middleton (7 tackles) finished second and fifth, respectively, in special teams tackles for the Jets in 2018.

While safety Terrence Brooks, who led the club in special teams snaps with 392, joined the Patriots in March, outside linebacker Brandon Copeland and tight end Eric Tomlinson re-upped with New York’s AFC representative. Despite making a career-high 10 starts last season and racking up five sacks, the 6’3”, 263-pound Copeland was second to only Brooks in terms of ST snaps with 323 and he pitched in with five stops.

The Jets will have new specialists in 2019. After Jason Myers turned in a stellar campaign, the Jets negotiated with the AFC Pro Bowler before he elected to sign a lucrative deal with the Seattle Seahawks. So the Jets immediately transitioned back to Chandler Catanzaro, a strong-legged kicker who converted 83.3% of his attempts for the Green & White in 2018 while working with LS Thomas Hennessy and P Lachlan Edwards.

“They will always want to keep the guy that they had. It didn’t work out with us and then Cat Man ends up coming on board,” Gase said. “They felt great about him because they’ve worked with him before, they know him. They know kind of how they’re going to work with the long-snapper and the punter. They have a good system to where they feel good about him.”

While the Jets filled their hole at kicker, a critical vacancy remains at the return position. Andre Roberts departed to Buffalo in free agency after being named first-team AP All-Pro for a season that saw him rank first in the NFL in punt return average (14.1) and second in kick return average (24.9).

New slot receiver Jamison Crowder was Washington’s primary punt returner from 2015-17 and Trenton Cannon, a sixth-round pick last April who ended up leading the Jets with 16 tackles on special teams, is a burner who was originally drafted primarily for his potential impact at returner.

But who will be the Jets returner in 2019?

“That’s a good question. We’ll leave it at that,” Gase said in Phoenix. “That’s going to be one we’re going to have to work through and we still have a ways to go. We might not see Brant for like months.”

Chris Herndon Jersey

Sometimes, the saying goes, you have to tear something down, then build it back up.

That’s kind of what the Jets did with their tight end position. Chris Herndon and Jordan Leggett were staying around but everything else was in play.

After one week of free agency, the position has been reassembled — and special teams has also benefited — with the additions of a new talent and a familiar face.

The newbie is Daniel Brown, the fifth-year man who played eight games with Baltimore in 2015-16, then 34 more with Chicago through last season’s playoffs.

“I was just looking for the best opportunity for me and my career,” Brown said. “Having talked with the staff here, we felt like that was the best opportunity. The best way to go was to sign with the Jets.”

And the familiar face belongs to Eric Tomlinson, who spent the past three seasons with the Jets, playing in 36 games and starting 29.

“I visited with a few other teams,” Tomlinson said after entering the free agent market last week and returning to the Green & White this week. “In the end, I always wanted to stay here. I’ve really enjoyed my time here, so it’s great to be back here.”

While Brown is new in town, he’ll be seeing several familiar faces himself in the Atlantic Health Training Center. The Bears had Dowell Loggains and John Dunn on their coaching staff when Brown was there, and now Loggains is the Jets’ offensive coordinator and Dunn is coaching the tight ends.

“Having decent production with Dowell and with what John taught me in Chicago, it makes for a fun offense,” Brown said. “Tight ends were very featured in that offense and I think it’s an exciting offense to be in.”

And for a short while, Brown played on a Ravens offense that in practice went up against a vaunted defense featuring inside LB C.J. Mosley.

“He’s a stud. The Jets got a good one in C.J.,” he said. “I’m happy to be playing with him again. I know the defense here had a good, strong core, but adding him is only going to help. They’re getting an All-Pro guy, a Pro Bowler. Be on the lookout.”

Tomlinson, on the other hand, can’t wait to establish a relationship with the UFA “stud” the Jets signed for their offense in RB Le’Veon Bell.

“Just going through it in your mind, it’s like, ‘Dang, I want to start blocking for him already,’ ” ET said. “You can see what Le’Veon can do and what he can bring to the table. It’s going to be great.”

Last year the TE meeting room included, at different times, Clive Walford, who signed this month with Miami, and Neal Sterling, still on the market. Now a new depth chart is in the works.

“I think Chris Herndon is a great football player. He’s going to be a great tight end for a long time,” Tomlinson said. “Also Jordan Leggett, I think they both have potential to be really good. It’s good to be in the same room as them. We kind of teach each other and they might do one thing really good and they can kind of teach me, too.”

As for Adam Gase, his new head coach, Tomlinson offered his expectations in simple terms:

“Just bring that fire, that energy, and get this thing rolling.”

Nathan Shepherd Jersey

FLORHAM PARK – Sam Darnold’s first start as an NFL quarterback has commanded the attention you would expect. Nathan Shepherd’s first start? That’s a different story.

And it always will be with the Jets’ defensive tackle, whose background is unlike any other rookie in the NFL.

Shepherd is 24, played at two schools that will never be mentioned in the same breath as Arkansas and Clemson, and has held a lot of jobs that other players never dreamed of performing.

While Darnold is California bred and played at Southern California, one of college football’s glamour spots, Shepherd is a Canadian who played at Simon Fraser University in Canada before a two-year work experience to help pay his family’s bills and Fort Hays State, a Division II program in Kansas that rarely intrigues pro scouts.

Shepherd’s journey to the NFL and his start Monday night in Detroit against the Lions in Detroit is the stuff on which dreams are made of.

He always thought he could do it, he just didn’t tell his friends.

“You have to fake it to believe it,” Shepherd said Friday as the Jets continued their preparations for the opener.

Shepherd hasn’t faked anything since the Jets coaches first laid eyes on the 6-foot-4, 315-pounder, who is a rare combination of size and speed. When they were scouting him prior to the draft, they put together a list of attributes they were hoping for in their search for a lineman or linebacker who could provide help for their pass rush.

“He checked all the boxes,” said defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers.

He has since the Senior Bowl, where he more than held his own against guard Will Hernandez of UTEP, whom the Giants selected in the second round.

“It’s like football never stopped. College to the NFL, after the first hit, I learned football is the same language, wherever it’s spoken,” Shepherd said. “It’s still the same.”

His life isn’t. He signed a four-year, $3.5 million contract, including a signing bonus of close to $1 million.

As Shepherd says proudly, “Football is now my only job.”

It wasn’t that way during his extended college career. He spent two years at Simon Fraser, worked for two years because he could no longer pay tuition, and then finished off at Fort Hays, where he moonlighted as a concession worker at sporting events, security at basketball games and a bouncer. While in school in Canada, he worked in a plant nursery and in electrical construction, where he spent his breaks on 12-hour shifts doing nearly 1,000 push-ups a day.

“He’s tough,” said Jets coach Todd Bowles. And he was talking about Shepherd’s approach to the game,

“He doesn’t take a down off, Bowles said. “We just want him to keep doing what he’s done since he got here.”

The Jets need Shepherd as much as he needs them. Without another capable pass rusher in the front of their 3-4 defense (“we have to blitz by committee,” said Rodgers), the Jets are vulnerable to all the double team blocking of Leonard Williams. They want Shepherd to be Muhammad Wilkerson, before he received his big contract from the Jets. With Wilkerson having moved on to Green Bay, they need another interior rusher.

Shepherd gladly accepts that role.

He’s a pro football player now, a starter at that. The perfect ending for his dream story would be a long and productive NFL career. Maybe by then others will have forgotten the schools he attended and the jobs he worked.

“By the end of the day, it’s still football,” said Shepherd. “I definitely know I belong here.”

Sam Darnold Jersey

Since general manager Mike Maccagnan told the media that building around second-year quarterback Sam Darnold was a primary offseason focus, the Jets have added one key piece to every level of the offense — left guard Kelechi Osemele, wide receiver Jamison Crowder and running back Le’Veon Bell.

“We’re going to go out there and try to win every single game this year,” Darnold told’s Eric Allen at the team’s new uniform unveiling at Gotham Hall last week. “We have that potential with the guys that we have, the coaching staff that we have. I’m very excited about this team.”

When Bell signed with the Green & White, he said he planned to become Darnold’s security blanket. While offseason workouts began Monday, the two have yet to line up on a football field together and the USC product is already describing his new weapon as “quarterback friendly.”

“Just watching Big Ben (Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger) and him a couple years ago, I feel like Big Ben was going through his first progression, his second and third and then he gets closed in the pocket a little bit,” Darnold said. “Guys are coming after him and all of a sudden he just finds Le’Veon because Le’Veon is there in a friendly spot, numbers to the quarterback. And he’s able to catch the ball and turn it upfield and get a lot of yards after the catch.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Bell recorded 86 receptions for 597 yards behind the line of scrimmage from 2016-17 for an average of 6.9 yds/catch. But the 22-year-old Darnold may have another security blanket in Crowder.

In 47 games (21 starts) from 2015-17, the 5’9”, 177-pound slot receiver was targeted 280 times and caught 192 passes for 2,240 yards and 12 touchdowns with Kirk Cousins under center. Crowder along with Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson and tight end Chris Herndon make for a nice corps that can provide Darnold with multiple options.

“It’s going to be really fun to play with these guys and kind of get a feel throughout OTAs and training camp how we’re going to do things,” Darnold said. “I’m really excited about where we’re going and I also think our offensive line is going to be really good with the addition of KO and some of the other guys we have.”

You could sense that the 2018 No. 3 overall pick is itching to start Year 2 with his new arsenal. All of the players who went to the uniform unveil believe there’s a feeling surrounding the organization of starting new from the jerseys, players and coaching staff led by Adam Gase.

“Players love him and I think right away our guys are going to notice he’s so passionate about the game, it’s going to be hard to go out there and not have that passion,” Darnold said. “Same with Gregg Williams on the defensive side. I think the guys are going to love him (Gase) right away and I think we’re going to take that passion that he has and form around that and create a really good team around that.”

Mark Gastineau Jersey

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns’ matchup against the New York Jets on Thursday night brings back memories for long-time fans of Mark Moseley, Mark Gastineau and others who played key roles in a overtime playoff win for the Browns after the 1986 season.

Moseley’s 27-yard field goal in the second overtime ended the third-longest game in NFL history and sent the Browns to the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 3, 1987.

The Browns had rallied from 10 points down late in the fourth quarter to tie the Jets. Moseley, signed as a replacement for the injured Matt Bahr, missed a 23-yard field goal earlier in overtime.

The next week the Browns would lose in overtime to the Denver Broncos in a game that later would become known as “The Drive,” because of a late drive led by Denver quarterback John Elway.

Here is the game story, as it appeared in the next day’s Plain Dealer.CLEVELAND, Ohio – The best and worst moments in Browns history unfolded in one exhilarating afternoon of football at the Stadium yesterday.

More than four hours after the game started, Cleveland had its first playoff victory in 18 years.

Down by 10 points to the New York Jets with 4:14 to go, the Browns rallied to tie at 20-20 with seven seconds left in regulation.Then they overcame a missed field goal by Mark Moseley from 23 yards in the first overtime before the veteran kicker atoned with the game-winner from 27 yards 2:02 into a second extra period.

When the third-longest game in National Football League history had ended, the Browns emerged 23-20 victors over the gasping Jets, keeping their unforgettable season alive with record-setting performances on offense and defense.

The Browns, 13-4 after their sixth straight victory, will play host in the AFC Championship Game next Sunday to the winner of today’s Denver-New England playoff semifinal. That is the last stop before the Super Bowl.

“I played nine years to get here,” said tight end Ozzie Newsome, who hauled in six catches for 114 yards. “We will be ready.””I think we all had an opportunity to experience one of the finest games in the history of this sport,” effused coach Marty Schottenheimer. “I have never experienced or seen a comeback like that.”

The furious rally was led by quarterback Bernie Kosar, who set playoff records with 33 completions in 64 attempts for 489 yards. Two uncharacteristic interceptions by Kosar in the fourth quarter set the stage for the climax.

With the Jets holding a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Kosar, frustrated in the middle periods, finally moved the Browns to the Jets’ two. But on third down, the 23-year-old passer forced a ball to Webster Slaughter, who was double-covered. New York defensive back Russell Carter stole the pass in the corner of the end zone.

At that point, who didn’t recall the fateful Brian Sipe interception that ended the 1980 season. Today marks the sixth anniversary of that dark day in Cleveland sports history.

After the Browns’ defense forced the Jets to punt, Kosar took over at the Cleveland 17. Incredibly, his first pass, intended for Herman Fontenot, was intercepted by Jerry Holmes. Kosar had not thrown an interception since November and never had tossed two on successive passes.Many fans in the crowd of 78,106 fled to the exits, cursing another letdown.

Before the non-believers had made it out, Jets running back Freeman McNeil bounced off the middle of the Browns’ defensive pile, and raced around the right corner for a 25-yard touchdown. It gave the Jets their 20-10 lead.

Kosar and the Browns took the field with 4:08 to play.

“Bernie comes into the huddle and says, ‘We’re going to take this game,’ ” said left tackle Paul Farren. “It’s incredible the way he brought us together as a unit, one play at a time.”

The play that started it all was an inexcusable roughing-the-passer penalty on Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau, long after a Kosar incompletion. Gastineau’s mistake in judgment gave the Browns a first down at their 33.Five completions – two to Reggie Langhorne, two to Brian Brennan and one to Curtis Dickey – moved the Browns to the one at the two-minute warning.

Kevin Mack plunged over guard Dan Fike for the touchdown, and Moseley’s extra point made it 20-17, and gave the Browns hope.

Moseley’s onside kick was recovered by the Jets at the Browns’ 45, but the relentless Cleveland defense moved them three yards back in three plays and forced another punt.

The Browns took over at their 33 with :51 left. A pass interference penalty moved them to the Jets’ 42. Kosar then lofted a pass to Slaughter, who picked it off the helmet of cornerback Carl Howard and fell to the five.
After an incompletion, Schottenheimer sent in Moseley. The 13-year veteran poked it through from 22 yards to send the game into overtime.

That’s when the Cleveland defense, which sacked Jets’ quarterbacks Pat Ryan and Ken O’Brien a playoff record-tying nine times, dug in.

“We just felt if we could keep getting the ball in Bernie’s hands, we’d win,” said Carl (Big Daddy) Hairston, who had nine tackles and three sacks.

The Jets won the overtime coin toss, but O’Brien, who replaced injured starter Ryan in the first half, could muster nothing.

From the Cleveland 26, Kosar marched the Browns to the Jets’ five, covering the last 35 yards on a pass to Langhorne against a rare New York blitz.

Moseley was sent in again with 8:53 left in overtime. He missed the 23-yard attempt at the closed end, wide right.

“I barely hit it,” Moseley recounted. “I was off balance, falling away.”

The Jets were stopped on the next two possessions.

“This was the best our defense has ever played,” Schottenheimer said. “They kept making plays when they had to in the third down situations.”

The winning drive began at the Browns’ 31 after Dave Jennings’ playoff record 14th punt of the game. There was 2:38 left in the first overtime.By then, the beleaguered Jets’ defense was physically spent. The Jets had no fuel in their tanks.

“I didn’t think they’d ever wear down, but they finally did,” said center Mike Baab, who played the entire game with a sprained left knee.

Mack, gaining strength as the game approached the four-hour mark, ran for four yards and a first down to the Browns’ 41, then banged ahead for eight yards to midfield two plays later. From the Jets’ 42, Brennan broke up an errant pass that was nearly intercepted by the Jets’ Howard.

“That was the biggest play of the game,” Kosar said.

Given another life, the Browns’ offensive line finally took the game in their huge hands. Fontenot ran for seven yards. Then Mack, on three successive, bullish carries, gained 26 to take the Browns to the Jets’ nine. The Browns gained 45 of their total 75 rushing yards on the last series of the game.

The Jets called time to make Moseley think about his last miss.

“It was probably the worst thing they could do,” said Moseley, who had son five games in overtime over his distinguished career. “I’m a good concentrator.”

Moseley hammered the game-winner through the uprights at the devilish, open end of the Stadium.

The fans, who stood and roared the entire 17 minutes and two seconds of overtime, went berserk.Just before we said our prayer in the locker room, I told the players to listen,” said Schottenheimer. “You could still hear the people cheering for us.

“This is a victory, a game, a moment all of us will remember the rest of our lives.”

With a wink, Kosar whispered to a reporter, “Just another day at the office.”

Dennis Byrd Jersey

The fight to get Mikey Nichols back on his feet is getting stronger each year.

The 22-year-old who was paralyzed during a high school hockey game five years ago will be at Prudential Center on Friday for the 5th annual Mikey Strong Charity Hockey Game to benefit spinal cord research and quality-of-life initiatives, the Nichols Family Trust and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

What started as a charity game at Ice World Sports Complex in Middletown, New Jersey in 2015 has grown so big it will be played at the home of the New Jersey Devils for the second straight year.

“The support from the community of athletics has been nothing short of just great,” said Boomer Esiason, former NFL quarterback and current co-host of “Boomer and Gio,” a morning show on WFAN, a sports-talk radio station in New York. “To open up a major NHL building like the Prudential Center, on a Friday night, for a charity hockey game, is nothing short of a miracle, especially in this area.”

Esiason and his radio partner Gregg Giannotti will play in the game with Devils alumni including Bryce Salvador, Ken Daneyko and Bruce Driver. Rick DiPietro, Mike Komisarek and Benoit Hogue are among retired NHL players also participating along with Michelle Picard, a silver medalist for the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and Will Reeve, son of late actor Christopher Reeve who was left quadriplegic after being thrown from a horse during an equestrian competition.

General admission tickets are $25 and corporate sponsorship packages are available. The first 5,000 fans will receive a voucher for two complimentary tickets to a New York Yankees game during the 2019 season. Added to the promotion this year are two tickets to see the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer in 2019 and the Devils in 2019-20.Esiason, who played 14 NFL seasons as quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals, was on the air with then co-host Craig Carton when they heard about a senior forward from Monroe (N.J.) High School who had his C5 vertebrae shattered when he was checked headfirst into the boards during a game against Vernon High School on Jan. 4, 2014.

Nichols received an invitation to join “Boomer and Carton,” who were captivated by his spirit, will to survive and determination to play hockey again. The seeds were planted for the first charity game.

“Because Mikey had so much energy and so much love for the game of hockey, we just thought it was natural to do something for him,” Esiason said. “We saw the response the first two or three years and it was just overwhelming. If anybody has ever talked to Mikey or just listened to him speak about how his hopes and dreams are to get back on the ice, you want to do anything you possibly can to help him get there.”

Once the Devils and their community outreach program got involved and helped Esiason recruit retired NHL players, Mikey Strong outgrew Ice World, earned sponsorship from M&Ms and raised $200,000 in the first three years, with Esiason estimating between $50,000 and $60,000 last year. Exposure also has increased with promotion during Devils home games and on WFAN.

“When the Devils took this over last year, it took it to a whole other level,” Esiason said. “JP (special adviser Jonathan Press) and everybody over at the Devils deserve a lot of credit for this, for doing it for a (New York Rangers) fan who’s involved with a kid who got hurt in New Jersey. And Mikey has certainly been the impetuous for all of this.

“When I see somebody like Mikey talking the way he does, it’s not hard to be impressed by him. I guess he embodies the true spirit of the hockey player that he really is, the hockey player inside of him, certainly the hockey player that keeps him living and pushing forward to hopefully new heights.”

Eric LeGrand, a former Rutgers University defensive tackle paralyzed during a game against Army on Oct. 16. 2010, has regained movement in his shoulders and sensation throughout his body. The late Dennis Byrd walked again after the former New York Jets defensive end was paralyzed while playing the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 29, 1992. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier sustained a spinal contusion against the Bengals on Dec. 4, 2017 and did not play in 2018 but jogged Nov. 30, the first time he’d done something like that since spinal stabilization surgery.Those are three examples of how the human spirit can work wonders. Mickey Nichols is driven to become another.

“You have to be realistic about the injury and have to understand what he goes through on a daily basis to overcome this,” Esiason said. “My respect lies with his mindset. From Mikey Nichols to Eric LeGrand and Ryan Shazier, they feed off each other. I believe that someday Mikey Nichols will put those skates on and he’ll get back out on the ice. Whether or not he’ll be scoring anymore, that I don’t know, but I believe it’s in his heart that he will do that. And if it’s in his heart, I’m not ever going to question that.”

Wesley Walker Jersey

The Jets took a chance that could not have turned out much better during the 1977 NFL Draft when they selected Wesley Walker in the second round.

“My senior year, I had a very serious knee injury, so it scared a lot of teams. But all the scouts were saying I was still going in the first round,” said Walker, a University of California All-America wide receiver. “I’m waiting for the phone call, it didn’t come. And finally New Orleans called and said they’re starting the second round and they’re going to draft me.

“I get a call later and think it’s New Orleans, and it was the Jets. I’m from California and I love the Raiders and San Francisco (49ers), but if I had a choice, New York would have been one of the teams I would have selected myself.”

Walker’s rookie season was also the third consecutive year that the Jets posted a 3-11 record. It wasn’t enjoyable for the team off the field either.

When I got there it seemed like everybody had their own little clichés. I wasn’t like that. I was from Berkley and I was like a black hippie. I loved everybody, but I found there was a lot of racism,” Walker said. “The black guys would keep to themselves. The white guys, they had their own things. Guys wouldn’t invite you to certain places or parties.

“I always thought if we were together as we preached, as a family, as you’re supposed to as a team, we would have maybe had a lot more success.”

The San Bernardino, California native did, however, enjoy some success on the field. He caught 35 passes for 740 yards, a league-leading 21.1 yards-per-catch [ypc] average, and was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team.

“I was very proud of that. I remember finishing second behind (Dallas Cowboys running back) Tony Dorsett. Obviously, you’d love to be the rookie of the year, but for a little guy that was said couldn’t catch and too small and (legally) blind in one eye, I didn’t do so bad,” Walker said. “But I’m definitely proud that I had some success. Not the success I would have liked to have because it always could be better. I was a perfectionist. I was always frustrated for not being better than what I was.”

But things were better the following season. The Jets went 8-8, and Walker led the NFL with 1,169 receiving yards and a 24.4 ypc average. In his first two years, he caught 83 passes for 1,909 yards, a 23 ypc average, for 11 touchdowns. How did he get a feel for the NFL so quickly?

“I think I was very lucky because I came from a pro-style offense-oriented school,” Walker said. “I had quarterbacks – Vince Ferragamo, who got drafted by the Rams in the first round. Steve Bartkowski, who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round. And a guy by the name of Joe Roth, who surpassed all the records and was the second coming of Joe Namath, but he passed away of cancer. I think I had that little bit of advance knowledge to be able to adjust to the NFL”

In 1978, Walker was named first-team All-Pro and selected to play in the Pro Bowl. He was also named as the team’s MVP.

“Oh my God, it was like the best,” Walker said. “When you get voted MVP, that’s by team members, the people around you. When you’re voted by your teammates, it doesn’t get any better than that. I was just in awe. It was like a dream come true.”

Walker, who retired in 1990 after playing 13 seasons for the Jets, is second to only Hall of Famer Don Maynard on the team’s all-time receiving lists with 438 catches for 8,306 yards and 71 touchdowns. A two-time Pro Bowler, in 2012, he was placed in the Jets Ring of Honor.

Following football, Walker earned a master’s degree in psychology from Mercy College and became a teacher.

“I always wanted to work with student-athletes. Not really coaching, but I would do that to help other athletes. The reason I was able to go to college (at Cal-Berkley) is because I was not only a great athlete, I was a good student. Grades are so important and that’s what I wanted to give back to the student-athletes. That’s why I got into teaching,” Walker said.

“I didn’t know where that was going to take me, but I taught every level, K-12. And to be honest with you, I taught (physical education and coached football and track) the last 16 years at Park View Elementary School in Kings Park, and that’s the most fun I’ve ever had.

“The kids, I was very close to, and it gives you a chance to influence people. I’ve been able to influence people because of my blindness. People who had problems or incidents or they lost their eye, I’ve been able to encourage people. That makes me feel good. I never knew that an athlete could have the influence that you do.”

Retiring for a second time in 2014, the father of three adult children and grandfather of four, Walker lives on Long Island and remains a positive influence on people as a volunteer.

“My fiancée, Barbara Ann Abbate, had started a business (Companionship Aid Services),” Walker said. “We help the elderly. It could be hospice; it could be people with dementia, Parkinson’s. I assist families with their parents who are in assisted living-type homes or hospitals. Some of these clients, they get attached to you because you do a good job and people respect you.

“I’ve got one client, the husband is 90 and has problems with walking, which I have with all the injuries I’ve had, and the wife has dementia. It’s very sad to see that aging process that takes place. It’s almost like taking care of a baby. But they’re very loving and affectionate. I appreciate the people that know that they’re going to be taken care of. They appreciate you.”

Wayne Chrebet Jersey

The Jets proved to be major players in the first week of the NFL’s unrestricted free agency signing period, which is wrapping up later today. As Jets WR legend Wayne Chrebet put it, “On paper, we got a lot better in the last week.” Where are the Jets position by position at this point? Here are quick takes on the Green & White offense heading into week 2, offense first:

Arrivals: In the last eight seasons, Le’Veon Bell, who played for the Steelers from 2013-17, leads all qualifying NFL backs by converting 23.7% of his scrimmage touches into first downs and is tied for first with Todd Gurley at 5.2 yards/touch. And now he’s lining up behind Sam Darnold.

Departures: Isaiah Crowell was released.

Holding Patterns: Bilal Powell, after eight strong seasons of Jets service, remains a UFA.

Still On Board: De’Angelo Henderson was tendered as an exclusive rights FA.

Arrivals: Jamison Crowder was limited last season in Washington’s slot with an ankle injury but from 2015-17 he “came off the bench” for 192 catches, 2,240 yards and 12 touchdowns and his 5.7 YAC average was in the top 15 among WRs in that span (so was Quincy Enunwa’s 6.1). Josh Bellamy is listed as a WR but he makes no bones about wanting to contribute any way he can, especially on every one of Brant Boyer’s special teams units.

Departures: Andre Roberts, off his Pro Bowl returning year, has to be replaced after signing with Buffalo.

Holding Patterns: UFAs Jermaine Kearse and Rishard Matthews remain unsigned.

Still On Board: Dangerous downfield WR Robby Anderson was tendered at the second-round level as a restricted FA. He still could sign another team’s offer sheet but the Jets have right of first refusal. Deontay Burnett was tendered as an ERFA.

Arrivals: Eric Tomlinson and Daniel Brown just signed on to Adam Gase’s offense to supplement Chris Herndon off his strong rookie showing and third-year man Jordan Leggett. Brown’s receiving numbers aren’t large but he’s a big third-TE-type blocker and special teams contributor.

Departures: Clive Walford left to join Miami.

Holding Pattern: Neal Sterling remains an unsigned UFA.

Arrivals: Kelechi Osemele, a seven-year NFL starter, mostly at LG, and a Pro Bowler in 2016-17 for Oakland, landed in a trade. He prides himself on his physicality and has already told Darnold, “I’m your new bodyguard.” Tom Compton, signed this week, has been a versatile journeyman who’s started for Washington, Chicago and Minnesota, mostly at guard, but has also blocked as an eligible third TE on at least 15 touchdown plays from 2013-16 with the Redskins and Falcons.

Still On Board: Jonotthan Harrison, who started eight of the last nine games at C last season, re-signed. Brent Qvale, a big Swiss army knife, over the past three years has 14 starts at RT, RG and TE and over 1,000 snaps combined on the OL and ST. OL Ben Braden, starting his third season on the roster, was tendered as an ERFA.

Departures: James Carpenter, the LG starter for the previous four seasons until last year’s Game 10 injury, signed with Atlanta. C/G Spencer Long was released and signed with Buffalo.

Holding Patterns: Ben Ijalana and Dakota Dozier, plug-in contributors since 2016, are unsigned UFAs.

Arrivals: With Josh McCown undecided about continuing his long NFL career, the Jets moved to secure a backup for Darnold on Free Agency, Week 2, Day 1. They signed Trevor Siemian, who’s backed up two strong veterans in Peyton Manning on Denver’s Super Bowl 50 team and Kirk Cousins on Minnesota last year, and in between posted a 13-11 record as the Broncos’ starter.

Still On Board: Davis Webb was tendered as an exclusive rights FA.

Arrivals: It’s the Return of the Catman as Chandler Catanzaro, who was solid as the Jets’ kicker in 2017 with 25 of 30 field goal makes (83.3%) and the longest FG in franchise history (57 yards at Cleveland), has re-signed after spending last season with Tampa Bay and Carolina.

Departures: Jason Myers, off his strong Pro Bowl showing in 2018, signed with Seattle.

Wednesday: The Jets defense after the first week of free agency.

Joe Klecko Jersey

Heart of the Sack Exchange *Although he notched 10.5 sacks in 1980, Klecko finished second on the squad as DE Mark Gastineau tallied 11.5. Klecko had at least one sack in eight of the 15 contests he appeared in, amassing six in the final six games. Displaying his unique versatility, the 6’3”, 265-pounder was back at defensive end.

Said Long, “Joe’s leverage point was so low and as most offensive tackles that played against him would attest to, his just pure raw strength, his quickness off the ball, his understanding of leverage and just sheer power — his game was not about finesse. It was not about being slick. For Joe, it was simple. You know what I’m going to do, I know what you’re going to do and stop me if you can.”

Nobody came close to stopping Klecko in 1981. He earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and was named Sports Illustrated’s NFL Player of the Year after leading the league and setting a club record with 20.5 sacks. Playing through a sprained foot, he also registered 107 tackles (72 solos).

“It just speaks to the diversity and the speed that he had,” Hannah said. “A defensive end, you don’t have to have the strength so to speak at defensive end that you have to have at tackle. It’s more of a speed position because you’re relying on them to get that upfield pass rush, contain that quarterback, keep him in the pocket and then get to him. It just speaks to the overall athletic ability that Joe had.”

According to the NFL, Klecko is listed as only having 24.0 sacks in his career. Sacks didn’t become an official statistic until 1982, so you have to dig to find Klecko’s 50.5 sacks over his first five seasons.
“People forget he put up 20.5 sacks in 1981 before sacks were considered an official statistic,” said Daily News NFL Columnist Gary Myers. “So you look at Joe’s stats on or Pro Football Reference and it shows 24 career sacks, but it discounts sacks from his first four or five years in the league, including his most dominant season.”

The Jets led the NFL in 1981 with 66 sacks and the New York Sack Exchange was born after Klecko, Gastineau and DTs Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam were invited to ring the ceremonial opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

“The Sack Exchange was phenomenal and Mark Gastineau for a while was a gigantic impact player on the game,” King said. “But I think over time and at three different positions, you had to account for where Joe Klecko was every week. I think he was where offensive coordinators and offensive line coaches started their game-planning.”

“He was the heart of the Sack Exchange,” added Barry Wilner of the Associated Press. “I think that’s the best way to put it.”

The 1981 season was one of the best for any unit in NFL history. Gastineau finished with 20 sacks as the Jets’ bookends combined for 40.5. The tackle pair of Marty Lyons (six sacks) and Abdul Salaam (seven sacks) pushed the pocket in the middle.

For the first time since 1969, the Jets made the postseason. After spotting the Bills a 24-0 advantage at Shea Stadium, the Jets almost pulled off an improbable comeback before falling short, 31-27, in a wild card contest befitting its name. Nobody hated losing more than Klecko.

“Winning was the only ultimate goal,” he said. “I wanted to win a Super Bowl worse than anything in the world and I think that was the driving force for me to win. If you wanted to win, you’re in. If you didn’t want to win, I had something to say to you.”

In Week 2 of the 1982 season, the Jets were cruising to a victory over the Patriots at Schaefer Stadium. Klecko had two of his team’s six sacks of New England QB Matt Cavanaugh, and the Pats mustered only 57 total yards. With the game out of reach, Klecko exited to the sideline only to return and sustain a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee.

“It was stupid. I actually was playing and I got taken out because the game was in hand,” Klecko said. “Then New England had a score and I put myself back into the game like a nut and that’s when I broke my knee.”

Following that second regular-season weekend, the NFLPA went on strike and everyone headed to the sideline. The 57-day player absence reduced the schedule from 16 games to nine.

Klecko worked diligently with his rehabilitation and was reactivated for the playoffs. On one leg, the seven-year pro played a defensive snap in the Jets’ 44-17 wild card win over the Bengals in Cincinnati, then most of the second half in the 17-14 divisional round triumphs over the Raiders in Los Angeles.

“Everybody said you’re not going to be able to do that and you may not every play again, Joe,” Klecko said. “I came back and I wasn’t ready. The first game I played a little bit, and then the second game, and then of course against Miami, I played a lot. But I wasn’t totally ready.”

The Dolphins had the Jets’ number in 1982 and ended their Super Bowl hopes with a 14-0 shutout in the AFC Championship Game. The Mud Bowl, which featured a sloppy Orange Bowl field after days of South Florida rain, took away the Jets’ speed and ended a trying year for Klecko. He would never get that close to title again.

Curtis Martin Jersey

Two decades ago, the New York Jets rocked the NFL with a record-setting contract for a free-agent running back. It was Curtis Martin, who now has a bronze bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As a player, Martin had a huge fan in Groveport, Ohio. The kid’s name was Le’Veon Bell, who has said on numerous occasions that Martin was his favorite player. This is a full-circle kind of story because now Bell is the Jets’ splashy free-agent signing, and Martin is the fan.

“I definitely think Le’Veon is one of the best, if not the best back in the NFL,” Martin said Wednesday in a phone interview with ESPN. “I always say, if I had three backs I could choose or draft, it’s either Le’Veon, Saquon [Barkley] or Todd Gurley. I think they’re the three best backs in the league. To have him is a huge asset.”

Martin left a message for Bell to congratulate him on his deal, which was agreed upon late Tuesday. When it becomes official, it will be a four-year, $52.5 million contract, which dwarfs Martin’s six-year, $36 million deal from 1998. Martin is thrilled his old team landed Bell in free agency, and he is touched that Bell admired him as a kid.

“For him to say that, I take it as a huge compliment because I can only dream of having the talent he has,” Martin said. “If I had his talent and ability, I would’ve probably passed Emmitt Smith before I retired.”

That’s quite a compliment, considering Martin’s accomplishments. He’s the fifth-leading rusher of all time, sitting 4,254 yards behind Smith. A knee injury cut his career short in 2005. Martin always prided himself on being someone who outworked his opponents, compensating for modest athletic ability.

Martin loves Bell’s raw ability, as well as the instincts he shows when attacking a defense.

“What I like most about him is his vision,” he said. “I always pay attention to a running back’s vision because I’ve met guys who were the quickest and the fastest, but they didn’t have the vision to be able to anticipate the defensive moves. You can always tell when a guy has good vision. I can tell, when Le’Veon is running, he’s not just putting a move on the man that’s in front of him. He’s setting himself up for the next man that’s coming. That’s just a special type of guy. I believe I had that vision. I just didn’t have the ability to go with it.

“I can always appreciate that about a running back. He has a lot of natural athletic attributes, but what I value most is the vision that he has. He can be patient and set up his blocks.”

The Jets’ rushing attack could use a jolt. They’ve had only 18 1,000-yard rushing seasons in franchise history (seven by Martin) and only one in the past six years (Chris Ivory, 2015). They hope Bell, 27, can galvanize the offense, which hasn’t functioned like a legitimate NFL offense since 2015.

“Le’Veon could’ve gone to any team in the NFL, and he’s going to improve that team,” Martin said. “He’s just that type of guy. There are guys who are at the top of the game in their respective positions, and he’s definitely one of those guys. There are certain guys … if you get an Aaron Rodgers, or if you get a Tom Brady or Patrick [Mahomes], they’re going to be an asset to any team they go to. Le’Veon … Antonio Brown, those guys, their level of talent is, no matter where they go, they’re going to make an impact.”

The Jets are betting big money on it, with a total of $35 million in guarantees. Bell will be under an intense spotlight, though Martin doesn’t believe he will be affected by the scrutiny of having to validate a massive contract. Martin acknowledged, though, that “there’s a different type of pressure in New York. I don’t think Le’Veon will feel the pressure until the season gets started. It’s something you can’t account for just by what people say to you or hear about New York. No matter what people say, New York is different.”

Bell’s situation is unique in that he sat out last season, embroiled in a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A lot of people are wondering how the layoff will impact his game. Martin said a one-year break “would’ve harmed me more than helped me,” but he considered himself a player who needed repetition and work to be successful. He said Bell is so gifted that he can overcome the hiatus.

“I think this rest will have done his body good,” Martin said. “Also, with everything that went on [with his contract], something like this can light a different spark under you and give you a different level of inspiration.”

Martin knows about that. When he left the New England Patriots to sign with the Jets, he had just undergone abdominal surgery. Coach Bill Parcells and assistant general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who negotiated the contract, took some criticism for the bold acquisition. Martin used it as fuel.

“There was a little chip on my shoulder because I remember the Patriots had labeled me as damaged goods because I was coming off an injury,” he said. “So there was a part of me that was like, ‘OK, we’ll see how damaged I am.’ That little chip was really a big chip. It’s one of those little chips that can move mountains.”

Martin ended up enshrined in Canton, not far from Bell’s hometown.