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Thursday, July 24, 2008

New York Jets By The Numbers: # 27 - Part 2

Jesse Johnson spent four seasons in the NFL, all in the secondary in #27 for the New York Jets. These weren't bad years to play for the Jets so they weren't bad for a hard working player like Johnson, who as far as I can see was never considered a constant starter. But the Jets then were a team plagued by injuries, and when Johnny Lynn or Bobby Jackson was injured, as one of them invariably were during those years, Jesse Johnson would step in. The only note I was able to make of a specific contribution was a well-timed batting down of a pass intended for someone on the Cleveland Browns in 1981, a season where the Jets needed to win every game they could in order to just barely make the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. The Jets beat the Browns 17-16. Every play counted. Every player was needed. Even then, the Jets lost in the Wild Card round. But Jesse Johnson lasted for two more years, filling in and taking over when necessary. Half of life is showing up.

I've been waiting to write about #27 Ron Mabra, who played one season - 1977 - for the Jets. This is mostly because of his picture, which I've now come across dozens of times when I'm researching Jets players on the Jets' All-Time Database. He looks like a fusion jazz artist, a sheik, or a member of Earth, Wind and Fire. He graduated from Howard University which, though esteemed, is not a football powerhouse. And his last name is interesting to me. Rearrange the letters and you get Abram, the Jewish patriarch's original name. Change the pronunciation of his last name a little and you get a Bostonian's pronouncement of the celebrated cigarette with the cowboy on its ad. Who is Ron Mabra, man of mystery?

Ah, but then the crushing reality of statistical truth - Mabra played two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, during which time his greatest mark was made returning a kickoff for 26 yards. According to all the available records, the only distinction he made as a Jet was to wear the uniform three times. But he might have gone on to have a successful law degree somewhere or perhaps a real estate business. Or pushing up the daisies, like Artimus Parker. So, the book closes on Ron Mabra. But wait! Not before we remember that the personal anecdote for him on the Jets All-Time Database: "Part-time hobby became a full-time off-season business when he opened leather shop in Atlanta." Ron Mabra, you have not let me down.

What's bizarre is that the reshuffled name Abram is also the first name of the Jets' current owner of #27, Abram Elam. And this would basically be where the jocularity (such as it is) of this association ends. The full story of Elam's journey to the Jets is a circuitous one, and is shared also by the son of Donald Dykes. While attending Notre Dame, both Dykes, Jr. and Elam were accused in an on-campus rape of a student in 2002, with only Elam indicted. He refused to implicate Dykes and the two other plaintiffs whom Lindsay Charles accused, which I suppose was admirable only to, well, the other men accused. All four were kicked out of Notre Dame, though it would appear that Abram, the only man found guilty (of a much lesser charge than rape) had the least involvement in the crime. Ironic, yes, but pitiful all the same. Sometimes irony just doesn't cut it. Three rapists - if Charles is to be believed - are scott free. After serving his minimal time, Elam signed with the Jets and is both an exemplar player and citizen. His accuser still intends to pursue a civil suit against Abram Elam, perhaps with the ferocity of someone who hopes that someday all the persons involved will be punished.

From the harrowing to the more ridiculous: Would you follow Kevin Porter to the gates of Hell? Sure you would. Guy who looks like that? Hell, yes. How about just to Kansas City, the place where his NFL career began with the Chiefs? It is there that he currently coaches the Brigade, who are an Arena Football team. He ended his career in #27 for the Jets after just one season. I can say no more than that, other than to add what I heard a play-by-play guy say on NBC's coverage of the indoor game: "This is Arena Football, Tom. There's nowhere to hide." Whenever I'm changing channels of a Sunday in the Springtime, waiting for the Phillies to come on, I'll come upon Arena Football, and either my wife or I will try to be the first one to say, "There's nowhere to hide." The irony is, there is somewhere out there, for then I change the channel.

Tony Scott
in the year 2000: one interception for an unknown (possibly zero) numbers of yards. Tackles? Unknown. One kickoff return for what I would presume to be a fair catch. Re-signed on April 9, 2002. Waived a little over two months later, on June 26. Again, football is like life. It is cruel.

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