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Monday, May 5, 2008

New York Jets By The Numbers: # 21

Twenty-one. A number with so many interesting connotations outside the football world, yet so few within it. There is LaDanian Tomlinson #21, whose name is so remarkably funny that he can only be an exception to every rule, anyway. I like funny names. (Which is why it's, well, reasonably amusing that when I wrote that above, Tomlinson was not a Jet. "Treg Songy" still has to be considered the funniest among #21's, however LT's funny name quotient goes through the roof if he's a bust, like "Brett Favre." I'm liking those odds).

Like Aaron Beasley. Any name with "Beasley" in it is funny. He had six interceptions in one season with the Jacksonville Jaguars and five in two seasons with the Jets, 2002 and 2003 and four in his final season as a pro in Atlanta. He wore #21. He is originally from Pottstown, PA, which is not far from where I live. According to Wackypedia, Beasley is currently the founder of Fever Sport Drinks, based in Maryland. Oh, the things that athletes do after they are done with the greatest of games.

If you want to know what Napoleon Kauffman is doing lately, you might find him at the annual Sheldon Canley Football Camp held in July at Huyck Stadium in Lompoc, CA. This is another thing ex-football players do - they train the next generation for a nominal fee. It's not exactly Jedi training, but it pays the bills. Once upon a time, Sheldon Canley wore #21 for the New York Jets in 1992 after serving what seems to have been a nearly undistinguished two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. His Jets stats? Four attempts, nine yards. The extraordinary thing is he tied a record for touchdowns in a single bowl game for San Jose State in 1991. It reads like an Arthur Miller play.

What will become of Andre Dyson? The Jets released him in February. I had just recently become used to him at cornerback after many years of seeing #21 Victor Green in that position. These were years where the Jets were bad, worse and better, then a little worse than better. In 2000, Green had six interceptions. He, Otis Smith and Aaron Glenn were fixtures of that strange time of promise, and the more I think about the heartburn of that time, the more I realize that I spent lots of Sunday afternoons terrified of the long pass they would give up. That may not be a fair memory of him, and Victor Green was, in particular, the most effective of them all. But I'm confused. Does this mean Justin Miller now gets Andre Dyson's number?

In the bleak 1976 season, #21 Clark Gaines was a bright spot as a rookie out of Wake Forest. He gained 724 yards that season, and not all against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To me, he was probably the best running back in the NFL. He wasn't even in the top ten for the AFC, of course, but to a little seven year-old depressed by the departure of John Riggins the year before, Clark Gaines was the near best thing that could happen to me. That's sad. I mean, I knew that Joe Namath was not what he once was in the same way that a teenager looks at his parents for the first time with a clear sense of their mortality and fallibility. I needed a replacement for my heroes, and running back Clark Gaines did the trick for a little while. His best season was 1979, when he was 95 yards shy of the 1,000 yard mark.

Sid Lewis? you ask. Yes, #21 Sid Lewis. Who else? Not the Sid Lewis who came from Penn State and played defensive back during the strike-ridden 1987 season, with absolutely no record of his performance? Not him? The very same, my friend. The very same.

Number 21, Don Boyd Odegard. Say it loud and proud. Say it fast and you utilize most of the short vowel sounds in the English language. He's also known as Don Odegard, which takes him out of the running for the Booth Lustig award because it's not as funny without "Boyd." This fellow is one of those rare characters, a kicker and a cornerback; he played special teams for the Jets between 1990 and '91. According to my crack research, he is today he is the President and Director of Operations for the Watts Brothers Farming and Frozen Foods Company. What a world.

Submitted for your approval: Kirk Springs #21. I remember Kirk Springs returning kicks and making two interceptions in 1981, his year-high in a career that spanned five years. Or six. According to jt-sw.com, Springs played from 1981-85 with the Jets and only the Jets. The NFL record books agree. The Times mentions that Springs was traded to the Indianapolis Colts for an "undisclosed draft pick" in April 1987. Which is correct? Did he ever make it to Indy? Was the draft pick ever disclosed? Did the Jets fork over a draft pick after forgetting that Springs had retired the season before? Probably.

When I look up the name of #21 Treg Songy on Google, it asks, "Did you mean Treg Songz?" Hmmmmmmm? No, I did not. I meant Treg Songy, and when I look up Treg Songy on www.pro-football-reference.com, I discover he played in two games in 1987. That can mean only one thing: REPLACEMENT PLAYER!!!! Treg's in charge of refreshments for the reunion this year.

And finally, Steve Tannen, #21. Look at that 1973 Topps card. Is this guy also a Saturday afternoon Channel Five Hong Kong kun fu villain's henchman or what? Look out, baby. Pay attention. Tannen played cornerback for the Jets from 1970-74, and he grabbed seven interceptions in 13 games during the 1972 season. That should have been a Pro Bowl appearance, my friend, and that would have gotten him a gig in kung fu cinema. Miami's Jake Scott had five interceptions at strong safety that year, and he went to the Pro Bowl. Typical bias in favor of the Filets. Nice job, anyway, Steve.

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