From 1995 until 2005, the Jets had one of the guttiest football players the game has ever seen lining up at wide receiver. Wayne Chrebet didn't look like he had any business playing in the NFL. He only stood 5'10" tall. He didn't go to a football powerhouse. He went to Hofstra. He wasn't particularly fast or athletic. He didn't get drafted. All he did was produce big with the Jets and win the hearts of many fans including me. I had the honor of speaking with Mr. Chrebet today.
Wayne was taking part in the"Take It to the House"program sponsored by Proctor & Gamble. Richard Germemia Jr. a Jets fan, submitted a photo displaying how he celebrates NFL game day with his family selected as a semi-finalist in the competition. As part of the prize, he got to meet Wayne and received a $10,000 donation from NFL PLAY 60 for his local area to promote 60 minutes of activity for children each day.
Wayne caught up with me after he was finished.
John B: What are you up to today?
Wayne Chrebet: Today I'm actually in Connecticut for the Take It to the House program. Proctor & Gamble is one of the sponsors of the NFL, and their product, Old Spice, is running a photo contest. I came out here because the winner had the chance to meet a player from their favorite team, and I went to the school and donated a $10,000 check for the health and wellness program. It's been a good day.
JB: What made you want to get involved in a venture like this?
WC: Part of it is the PLAY 60 program, which tells kids to get out at least 60 minutes a day. Get out there, run around, and play a sport just to get out of the house, which a lot of kids aren't doing these days. That piqued my interest.
Join us after the jump for more from Wayne. As a man who suffered concussions, he has thoughts on the new rules. He also gets very candid about the offensive coordinator Jets fans loved to hate before Brian Schottenheimer, Paul Hackett and much more.
JB: What have you been up to since you retired?
WC: I work for Morgan Stanley now. I'm a financial advisor. I've been doing that for two plus years. I don't do it on my own. I'm actually with a big group. I've been really successful at it so it's been a great second career for me.
JB: What is your relationship like with the Jets today?
WC: I do a lot of stuff for them. I do a lot of appearances, meeting a lot of people, and sponsors. It's good. I wanted to keep the relationship. I still go to the games and take my kids. I try to pal around with the new guys, and talk to the new coaching staff. I feel like I'm still a part of the family.
JB: Have you ever thought of getting back into the game at some point?
WC: If I'm not a player, I don't want to be involved. I don't want to be a coach or anything like that.
JB: A few weeks ago I spoke with Keyshawn Johnson. I asked him about your relationship with him. He told me the two of you got along great, and the media blew things out of proportion. How accurate is that?
WC: Yeah, it was completely blown out of proportion. Go watch any game, and you'll see that we're out there killing for each other making plays. I think that was the most important thing.
JB: As a player whose career ended prematurely because of concussions, could you give your feelings on the league's increasingly strict rules on guys playing with head injuries and the crackdown on hits to the head?
WC: I think it's good. It is football. People are going to get hurt. It's understandable, but the key is they are taking care of defenseless players. I mean the guys who are getting finished off, malicious hits that don't need to be in the game, and fining guys $50,000 hopefully puts an end to those. It is football. It is a contact sport. People are going to get hurt, but you just have to do it the right way in a controlled atmosphere.
JB: If you were playing today, what would you think of the proposal to expand the season to 18 games?
WC: I'd rather they keep it at 16 like it is. 18 games is a long, long season.
JB: Do you feel it would be too much of a player safety issue?
WC: No, it just takes a toll on you. The preseason is good because you can get into it without playing a full game. To play two more, the wear and tear would be tough.
JB: Could you describe to the average fan some of the differences between lining up in the slot and lining up outside as a wide receiver?
WC: From the outside point of view, you are really only worried about people on the inside of you. When you're in the slot, you have people coming from every angle. I'm not saying it's harder or easier. It's completely different. It's different for the defensive backs too, the fact you have two ways to go. The patterns are completely different. I'm used to being in the slot so I can't say how hard it is to be an outside receiver.
JB: What do you think the best moment of your career was?
WC: The best moment of my career was two years after I was done playing when they had my day at the stadium, and I got to walk out to the 50 yard line with my two boys.
JB: You've only been retired a few years, but what do you think the biggest change in the game has been since you played?
WC: It's been five years. A lot of things are different, but I think the biggest thing besides the contracts, which are crazy, is the guys are bigger and faster than ever. The game is getting vicious. It's serious out there. There are a lot of big collisions, and a lot of great players out there so hopefully the game continues the way it is.
JB: During his tenure, a lot of fans were frustrated by offensive coordinator Paul Hackett. They thought his play calling was too conservative. To what degree did similar frustrations exist among the guys in the locker room if at all?
WC: A lot of guys were frustrated. A lot of guys didn't like him, which is hard because you want a guy you'd like to play for. It made it a little awkward, but he's the coach. He calls the plays, and we run them.
JB: Do you mean guys didn't like him personally, or do you just mean his approach to the game?
WC: The way he called plays, how he carried himself to the players. He just wasn't the most sociable guy so he kind of rubbed people the wrong way. That was the consensus.
JB: How does the locker room react to something like Braylon Edwards getting arrested the week of a big divisional game?
WC: It's tough. It's a distraction for sure. As a player, you hope someone doesn't have to go through something like that, but you support him and tell him, "Hey, we're here for you."
JB: As a rookie free agent back in 1995, how confident did you feel that you would make the roster when you first went to camp?
WC: I felt confident that I could play in the league. It was a matter of getting the opportunity. I was fortunate to have a receivers coach that believed in me in Richard Mann and a head coach, Rich Kotite, who believed in me too. They gave me the opportunity, and I took it and ran with it.
JB: I don't mean to bring up a painful topic, but in the second game of your career, you dropped a big pass in overtime. The team went on to lose. A lot of rookies disappear after something like that and never reemerge. What were your thoughts after that game, and how did you overcome that to have a long and successful career?
WC: I have no clue what I was thinking back then. That's like fifteen years ago. I appreciate you bringing up the dropped touchdown. That's awesome. Thank you (laughing).
JB: What do you think about the current Jets team?
WC: I think they're a good team. I think they've got all the pieces in place. I think they're going to play well into the Playoffs.
Thanks to Wayne for speaking with me and for everybody who put together the event.
Below is the winning photo.