In the days leading up to the NFL draft, I was as confused about the Jets draft possibilities as a new born in a topless bar. Do they take USC QB Mark Sanchez, gambling the farm to get him in the process? Do we stick to Kellen Clemens, knowing full well he has not impressed in 3 seasons, and go after a blocking tight-end like Brendon Pettigrew or a wide out like Percy Harvin?
Just before the big day, I shot myself in the foot by announcing that any one who thought the Jets would or could draft Sanchez was ‘delusional’. I guess we’re all crazy now.
I hate to admit it but I wanted him drafted all along. I just couldn’t allow myself the luxury of even thinking of it as a possibility. As a long, suffering (emphasis on the ‘suffering’) Jets fan, I have had to develop many self-preservation skills to combat the ineptitude-ism that has been the New York Jets. We won’t re-hash the lineage of Jets draft blunders today.
No, today I want to enjoy the rush of knowing we have finally gone for the big kahuna status. We have finally grabbed a big time player for a team that hasn’t seen the big time in way too long. Clear the way for Broadway Joe version 2.0. Woo-Hoo!
Ok. Let me be honest here. Before all the draft hoopla…I had no idea who Mark Sanchez really was. I know, I know. I'm one of those non-college football guys. For me...once you go NFL, everything else just pales in comparison. It was high time to do a little checking on this young man and introduce him to his new home town fans.
Mark Travis John Sanchez was born in Long Beach, California on November 11th, 1986. The son of a fireman, he is of Mexican-American descent and will no doubt draw comparisons to previous & current, successful Mexican-American quarterbacks such as Jim Plunkett, Joe Kapp, Jeff Garcia, and Tony Romo. Unlike those others he is a full-blooded 3rd generation Mexican-American. His rise to fame within the L.A. Mexican-American community has been compared to that of boxer Oscar De La Hoya and baseball pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. As a first generation Dominican-American, I would be lying if I said it doesn’t make me swell just a little with pride knowing he most likely will be the next Jets starting QB. Forget about it if this kid turns out to be any good.
Named "Player of the Year" by several major college recruiting services, he was considered the top quarterback in the nation coming out of high school in 2005. Joining the mighty USC that same year, he would not become the official Trojan’s starter until 2008. Sanchez made 13 starts that year, amassing a 12-1 record and leading USC to a victory in the 2009 Rose Bowl and winning Offensive MVP of the game honors. This is a rather short resume, but at least it is all good news. You also have to figure sitting on the bench watching and learning has got to be counted as a plus here.
Sanchez found himself a in a bit of hot water when in April 2006, he was arrested after a female USC student accused him of sexual assault. Eventually, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office announced no charges would be filed against Sanchez citing a "lack of sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt", noting the case was "essentially a 'one-on-one' allegation". Escaping legal retribution, Sanchez did not go completely unscathed as USC placed him on interim suspension that suspended him from the football team yet permitted him to take his semester finals, albeit separate from the general student body and under the supervision of campus security and was required to take a rape awareness class at USC.
Declining to stay at USC for his final year of eligibility, Sanchez announced on January 15th 2009 his intentions to enter into the coming NFL draft. USC head coach Pete Carroll, himself an ex-head coach for the NY Jets, wasted no time in denouncing the decision, publicly calling the move “not safe” in a televised press conference. Coach and player would eventually make nice-nice. I have to wonder if Carroll was just a bit miffed about what he was losing.
By all accounts, Mark Sanchez is a suave, charismatic young man who has all the ‘intangibles’ of a future star in the NFL. I have yet to see any evidence to the contrary. I loved seeing the honest, almost boy-like reaction to his selection by the Jets. I am hoping to see that boyish enthusiasm translate to fun, i.e. winning, on the field.
It is also difficult to not see the confident, dare I say slightly cocky, attitude in this young man. That’s a good thing here. He very much comes off as a guy who knows he can do what he says he can do. Every time this young man is asked if he will be the starting QB, there is no questioning the strength of his convictions. Watch out Clemens.
Day two of the draft gave me my first true chance to see and hear Mark Sanchez, when he gave his first interview as a New York Jet from Radio City Music Hall. Here, again, I immediately noticed both his boyish charm and the confidence that seemly oozed all over my TV screen. Relaxed & poised under the lights, Sanchez appeared every bit the kind of guy I want to see under center for my team.
ESPN TV Analyst Rich Eisen: “You expect to be under center, week one?”
Mark Sanchez: “Well, absolutely and I hope Kellen feels the same way. I talked to him yesterday he’s a stand up, first class guy…a total pro about it. He said ‘I’m excited about working with you, man’. The whole point of this is I’m gonna learn from him and he is going to learn from me and we are going to make each other better and we are gonna make the team better.”
Highlight of the interview? When asked who set up the call between himself and Kellen Clemens, Sanchez tried to explain that “…I called him to say…” when one of the on air analyst intoned “…happy trails?”
Ouch. Sorry Kellen.
Xander Diaz is Editor-In-Chief for AFCBeast.com.