As football fans we always talk about players who take plays, quarters and even games off. We speak to our friends and one of us always says something like:
“These NFL players have it so good making all that money. They don’t appreciate what they have and I don’t want to hear any complaints about how rough they have it.”
The Jets had wide receiver Wayne Chrebet for 11 years. He made the most out of every second on the field. He never took any plays off, and always appreciated the opportunity he had. Secondaries were never intimidated by Chrebet. Taller and more athletic cornerbacks thought they would have their day with this un-drafted undersized receiver. They learned quickly that Chrebet would be a player to be reckoned with, as soon as the first quarter clock started. He was sure handed, ran great routes and had deceptive quickness.
Wayne Chrebet was born on August 14,1973 and grew up in Garfield New Jersey. He went to Garfield High. After high school, he stayed in the area going to Hofstra University. He set numerous records, one of which was the single-game record for yards, an incredible 245. He also had 5 touchdowns in one game and became the first Hofstra player to get over 1,000 receiving yards in a season. The school honored him inducting him into the Hofstra University Hall of Fame in 2006. His Hofstra #3 Jersey was also retired.
Playing at Hofstra turned out to be a break because at the time it was the Jets training facility. He played at the Long Island college from 1991-94. The story goes that Hofstra head coach, Joe Gardi, who was a former Jets coach himself, helped get Cherbet a look by the Jets during their rookie mini-camp. He also had calls from the Saints and the Bengals. After the first day of mini-camp, when Chrebet went back to his dorm, his friend and Hofstra linebacker Jim Shannon asked him how he thought he did. He told Shannon, who didn’t know if he was really serious, that the Jets first round draft pick Aaron Glenn couldn’t cover him. And the next day the same thing happened with Chrebet looking like the number one draft pick and Glenn looking like the un-drafted player.
Measuring only 5’10’ and 188 pounds, in his 1995 rookie season, the Jets went 3-13 and incredibly Chrebet had 66 catches. The Jets team was weak. The talent was limited but the Jets front office and the fans knew they had something in Wayne Chrebet. In 1996, the New York Jets hit a new low in franchise history going 1-15. There was very little to be encouraged about with the direction the team was going. But Chrebet was one of the few bright spots having one of his best seasons, playing hard on every play knowing every game was an uphill battle. That year he caught 84 balls which became a career high. He was also the punt returner that year based mostly on his reliable hands.
When the Jets drafted Keyshawn Johnson, he went out of his way to tweak Chrebet in the press every chance he could get. Johnson was always insisting he was the main cog of the Jets, but Chrebet just put his head down and worked hard catching just about every pass thrown to him.
When the Jets hired Bill Parcells as coach, the Jets fortunes began to change. Parcells recognized Chrebet's sure hands and quickness and made him an important 3rd down target. Chrebet continued to play hard and steady. He became a very reliable target no matter who the quarterback was. In 1998, he caught 75 passes for 1083 yards. He also caught 8 TDs passes. Not bad for a local Jersey kid who wasn’t drafted. He had some big games. Two stand out to me that both occurred in 2000. On Sunday, September 24, 2000 the Jets were visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This was the team Keyshawn Johnson was traded to. The Jets defenders put their clamps on Johnson holding him to only one reception for one yard. Meanwhile Chrebet scored the Jets winning touchdown on a 18-yard pass from halfback Curtis Martin. But the following month was a game to behold.
On October 23, 2000, the Jets were hosting the Miami Dolphins on Monday night. This game came to be called the Monday Night Miracle .The Jets won the game in overtime but it was the way they won it which was stunning. Chrebet had one of his best games ever. The Jets scored 30 points in the fourth quarter, twice tying the score and sending the game into overtime, beating the Dolphins, 40–37. Chrebet not only caught a touchdown pass in the 4th quarter to tie the game, but it was his overtime catch from Vinny Testaverde that got the Jets into field goal range. John Hall hit the winning field goal. In all Chrebet had 6 receptions for 104 yards and 2 TDs.
Chrebet developed a reputation as being one of the best receivers in the league on third down with a nose to get the first down. His last career reception epitomized this great skill. The Jets were playing the San Diego Chargers and on a 3rd and 5, in the 4th quarter, Chrebet caught a pass for a first down. This reception, his 379th catch for a first down (he had 580 lifetime receptions) would be his last. He laid motionless for a moment and as it turned out, it was Chrebet’s eighth documented concussion since his Hofstra days.
Wayne Chrebet was never in a Pro Bowl. He will never make the NFL Hall of Fame. But Jets fans who saw him play know the kind of effort he gave on every play. He was so clutch, it was amazing. In fact, during the span of his career, only 8 players in the NFL produced more receptions on third down and extended drives. He started out at the bottom of the Jets wide receiver depth chart only to become one of the most reliable players in New York Jets history. He made the most of his ability and his 11-year career, playing much bigger than his 5’11” 188 pound body. There were Jets players who had more talent than Wayne Chrebet but nobody gave more effort than him!
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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