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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New York Jets By The Numbers: # 23 - Which Kevin Williams Was That Again?

For the secondary of any franchise there is usually little to no public recognition. The receivers that the secondary covers get so much more profile. Currently Pacman Jones is maintaining an attention and focus normally elusive to DB's and safeties because he has an impressive criminal record. Otherwise, these folks travel a great deal, toil in anonymity, and show up on replays and game shots as the guys that got beat on the big pass play. One case is like many: making his way on the trail of the Mississippi from Minnesota down to New Orleans, Mike Mayes made a year's stop due east in the New York Jets uniform of #23. It was here, with us, in a 1990 game against the then-pathetic New England Patriots that he forced a fumble and caught an interception. There you are man, the gods said. Today your day has come. It was the only interception of his three-year NFL career.

Even in the the 1968 championship season, Bill Rademacher #23 remains one of those tertiary names of the season's significance, but he's one of those rare and versatile fellows who, after being a casualty of Weeb's post-Super Bowl purge, then became a running back for the Boston Patriots, scoring four touchdowns in 1969. Take a look at the rosters of the 1969 and '70 Patriots and you will find several key Jets, disgruntled by Weeb's pecuniary proclivities.

Shafer Suggs
played five seasons in New York, with a mysterious journey to Cincinnati and back. But really, all I need to say is found in a back entry, "Dreams and Numbers."

No, this isn't Marcus Turner, the famous New Zealand folksinger. (I think.) Defensive backs and safeties have a shelf life that averages out to about five years. But what if you never get to play for a good team in all that time? Fresh from UCLA, Turner played from 1989 to '91 for the Phoenix Cardinals (which is almost as funny a name as "Utah Jazz") and then for the Jets, from 1992 to the hard and cruel season of 1995. The 1993 Jets played poorly to an 8-8 record, but that was the best record of any squad for which Turner played. With that kind of luck, even the money you make must smack of misfortune.

Though he started in #31, Hank Poteat was cut by the Jets in summer 2008 and then was re-signed during the ensuing season wearing #23. What else do you need to know? That he is the third male of his family to be named "Henry Major Poteat?" That his nickname was "Sweet Feet?" That he earned a Super Bowl ring with Those of Whom We Do Not Speak? I include here a 2007 NYT article on him because it's one of their characteristic special interest articles that isolates a hard-working player, usually on defense, who learned from his daddy and takes humiliation like a man. Specifically, in 2007 Hank got the first interception of a long career in transit from one club to another. Now that Hank is out and back again this season, we might as well point out that he also dislodged a fumble in the game against Cincinnati in week 6. I am officially rooting for Sweet Feet this year. Hells yes.

Let's not neglect Kevin Williams, #23 from 1998 to 2000, who suffered a serious throat infection that endangered his career, if not his life. He bounced back to play a few games each season for Miami and Houston until 2002. He is not - repeat not to be confused with the Kevin Williams, webmaster for the site that discusses near-death experience entitled "There Is Nothing Better Than Being Dead." I hate when my suspicions are so blithely confirmed. This Kevin Williams quotes a Dr. Diane Morrissey, who says, "If I lived a billion years more, in my body or yours, there's not a single experience on Earth that could ever be as good as being dead. Nothing." Well, Jets fans can certainly testify to that.

Though Donnie Walker played for the Jets in #23 for an indeterminate number of games, the Jets database puts his only notable statistics with his playing days on the Buffalo Bills in 1973. Not much I'm going to say about that. Then, #23 Eric Zomalt played a single season in 1996, the Jets' worst. Emotionally, it must have been his least satisfying. How could it be otherwise? "Sure, we were 1-15. Ah, but those were good times. Good times." God almighty.

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