Sometimes in sports there is one season, one game or in this case one play that captures the hearts of a fan, and they become loyal to that team forever. Because my wife’s family is from Boston, our household was split between teams from New York and New England. For my middle child, my son Michael, it was one play during a Jets game involving Aaron Glenn that locked him up till this day as a loyal follower of the green and white. But more on that later.
Aaron Glenn was born in Humble, Texas on July 16, 1972. He played youth football and then played in high school at Nimitz High School in Houston. When he was a senior, he played both offense and defense. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and intercepted 7 passes that year. He also lettered in track and basketball.
When it was time to go to college, Glenn signed a letter on intent to go to Purdue University. He ended up going to Navarro College in Corsicana Texas. He then transferred to Texas A & M playing for the Aggies for the 1992 and 1993 seasons. He set a school record there his first year with 20 passes broken up. In 1993 he led the nation with a 19.9 punt return average, that included returning two punts for touchdowns. He was a two-time All Southwest Conference selection and in his senior year, he was a consensus first-team All-American. He was inducted into the Texas A & M athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.
In the 1994 NFL draft, some of the players included Marshall Faulk, Willie McGinest and Isaac Bruce. The Jets were picking 12th, and when their turn came, the only question about Glenn was his size. He measured 5’9”. Some of the NFL receivers were big like Cris Carter at 6’3”, and some teams including the Jets were concerned if Glenn could compete with the bigger receivers in the league. After the Chicago Bears picked, the Jets pulled the trigger picking Glenn.
He arrived at the Jets in the midst of one of their many rebuilding teams. In his first three years, the Jets went: 6-10, 3-13 and 1-15. Not until Bill Parcells arrived as coach did Glenn get to see what an NFL winning organization was like. After the Jets starting winning, Glenn’s talent began to be recognized by everyone who followed the NFL. He made the Pro-Bowl in 1997 and 1998 with the Jets and did it again with the Houston Texans in 2002.
Parcells and Glenn developed a mutual respect for each other that carried over after his playing days. One interesting tidbit was how Parcells would motivate Glenn when he coached the Jets. During the 1997 season, Glenn was the defensive back who always had to cover the opponent’s best receiver. Parcells, who was known as a master at motivating players, placed a doll house near Glenn’s locker. He bought a toy doll putting the name of that week’s receiver on its head. If the receiver got the best of Glenn, he would be placed in the doll house for the rest of the season. Glenn said: “ I didn't want any toys in my doll house.” This motivational technique worked and helped Glenn make his first Pro-Bowl in 1997.
In his eight seasons with the New York Jets, he played in 120 games and was very rarely injured. In his Jets career, he had 24 interceptions returning three for touchdowns. It was his interception in 1996 of a Dan Marino pass that was one of his best. Though the Jets lost the game, Glenn returned the interception 100-yards for a touchdown. And, this is not the play that I am referring to at the beginning of this article.
In 2002, the NFL was expanding with a new franchise in Houston, the Texans. The Jets played some poker exposing Glenn to the expansion draft. The Jets were paying Glenn $8 million dollars. The story goes and has never been truly verified, was that because of his huge salary, they thought there was no chance an expansion team would pick him. It was a risk that backfired as the Texans jumped at the opportunity to obtain a local player who had Pro-Bowl experience. It paid off well for the Texans. In fact, Glenn had one of his best games for the Texans in 2002 playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had two pick sixes that game, returning one 70-yards and the other 65-yards, making another Pro-Bowl that year.
In his 15-year career, Aaron Glenn had 41 interceptions with 6 being returned for touchdowns. His speed was his greatest attribute. In fact, one interesting sports nugget I found goes back to 2011. In a Bleacher Report article by Thad Novak, he wrote what he thought at the time was a list of the 50 Fastest Players in Sports History. The article included all sports with great athletes such as: Jesse Owens, Ricky Henderson and Bob Hayes. Sure enough, Glenn made the top 50 coming in at number 49. Though this piece was purely subjective, it was nice to see someone recognizing Aaron Glenn’s speed.
The play that made my son a Jets lifer happened on November 15, 1998. The Jets were playing the Indianapolis Colts facing Peyton Manning. At the end of the first half, Mike Vanderjagt was attempting a long field goal with only a few seconds left on the clock. Jets coach Bill Parcells put Glenn near the goal line. He fielded the missed 63-yard field goal attempt four yards deep in the end zone. Glenn came out running with the ball looking like a combination of Gayle Sayers and Barry Sanders. First going to the right side of the field, then changing directions going to the left. The Jets created a wall but Glenn’s speed that day was unexplainable as he not only outran the opponent but outran some of his own blockers as he galloped 104-yards for a touchdown. I remember distinctly how my son and I were screaming at the top of our lungs and my wife came running in to make sure we were okay. It was an incredible run that Michael and I will never forget.
These days, Aaron Glenn has been moving up the NFL coaching ladder (with Bill Parcells mentoring him), becoming a defensive coordinator who has gotten a few interviews for an NFL head coach. As a Jets player, he was a consistent defender who used his speed well and never took a play off. A player who was not big in stature but played big all the time. The Jets were lucky to have him for eight years. He was one of the big reasons the Jets went to the AFC Championship game in 1999. But when I think of Aaron Glenn, it’s his 100-yard interception return off of Dan Marino and that classic 104-yard return of that field goal attempt that I remember most.
Marty Schupak has been a New York Jets football fan since 1964. Ray Clifford another lifelong fan contributed to this article. Their blog and Podcast are both at: www.JetsRewind.com
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