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Sunday, May 25, 2008

New York Jets By The Numbers: # 23 - The Reminder

The Jetskins Saga continues with the entry of two-year player, #23 Derrick Blaylock. He was released to Washington at the beginning of last season, and despite finally reaching an agreement with them, he was eventually released without playing a game. He is currently a free agent. What does a football player who gained a couple of hundred yards a season do in the meantime, waiting for the call that might never come? It is a reminder to all of us, perhaps.

While on such subjects, here's a remarkable collection of details about running back, #23 Dennis Bligen who played for the Jets from 1984 to 1987, mostly as a special teams player. He is the first NFL player from St. John's (the basketball friendly Red Storm when they were "Redmen" St. John's, not the famous program in Minnesota), was the fourth best rusher on the Jets in 1985, and never played football in high school. I'll repeat that: Never played football in high school but played football for a school that I never even knew had a football program. According to Gerald Eskanazi, the Jets sent Bligen off to Tampa Bay before the 15th game of the 1986 season, just as he was coming off injured reserve, and he might have been there for a crucial short down conversion (one of his specialties) late in the fourth quarter of the infamous Cleveland divisional playoff of January 1987 had he not been sent South. Instead, the Jets called an ill-fated Ken O'Brien QB sneak, gave the ball, and two overtimes later the game, back to Cleveland. He returned in 1987 for one season, too little too late. Mystifying, really. Here Jets fans can appreciate what real scholars of History are always bound to learn - that that great collapses always include the absence of such little nuts and bolts.

Number 23 Jerry Davis played six games in 1975. In the same jersey, Mike Harmon played nine games in 1983. Nothing else can be found of their presence in the NFL. It can sometimes be a short span.

In the same vein as a previous recipient of the Booth Lustig Special Award for Dicks, let us not neglect Dick Felt, the first #23 in our organization's history. After a standout career with Brigham Young, he came east to play in Gotham for the Titans and then for the Boston Patriots from 1962 to 1966. Young men just aren't named Dick anymore, are they? What a shame. Is it Nixon's fault, or does one put the blame on the merciless, unforgiving course of slang? Perhaps that thousand yard stare that accompanies this photograph is the only natural expression remaining for a man who has been reminded all his life that his name is the terse, passive construction that expresses an action performed on a noun. Ah well.

Jamie Henderson played in #23 for the Jets from 2001 to 2004. Still in the thick of a somewhat promising first couple of years, he suffered a motorcycle accident that, it would seem, ended his career. It is telling of the time that most accounts of this accident took pains to point out that Mr. Henderson was not speeding, was wearing a helmet and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time. Neither was he racing. On the Wacky, Jamie Henderson is now mentioned as a defensive backs coach for Georgia State, though one suspects what he himself suggests in his own peculiarly poignant website - that someday he would like to coach at his alma mater, Georgia. Memo to self: I never want to ride a motorcycle.

In the average span of an average career in pro football, Mark Johnston's in the AFL is pretty average. He managed four interceptions in each of his first three years with the Houston Oilers, then one with Oakland and then one with the Jets in #23. As the Jets database so bluntly puts it, "Played eight games with the club during the '64 season and tallied one interception." Though factual, it sounds dismissive. It's a reminder that despite our best intentions and efforts, the truth of our lives can often be as bland as it sounds. A Jets fan understands such verities.

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