As the away game against San Diego began during the Brett Favre season, #36 David Barrett picked off a Philip Rivers pass and brought it back 25 yards for a touchdown - the only touchdown of his career. It was the Jets' first score of the game, and it seemed as though we were beginning the game in exactly the way we needed. However, it was a mirage. The Jets lost the game by more than two touchdowns, and though it was wonderful to see the normally bellicose Rivers seem flustered by Barrett's pickoff, the fact is that the badder guy won in the end. Brett Favre's energetic high fives for the defense as they came off the field were a mirage, too. Brett never bonded with us; he never really cared for anyone other than Jenn Sterger and some assorted Jets employees who were repulsed by his advances. David Barrett was injured for most of the remainder of the 2008 season and was released even before Rex Ryan was brought in to coach. He had a fairly good five seasons with us and that, my friends, is all I'm going to say.
Wellington Nathaniel Crutchfield, III goes by "Buddy," and he was a Jetskin, having come over from Washington to the Jets from 1998 to 1999. According to the less than meticulous records of professional football, he made one tackle in his one season with the Jets in #36. In an entirely unrelated piece of information, I once saw blues piano player Jimmy Crutchfield, a local St. Louis legend, and his band play a concert for a group of East St. Louis, IL transitional high school students whose school resembled something out of a third world shanty. After playing for an hour, Crutchfield, a thin, angular man whispered, "One more, one more. Then let's get the hell out of here." I recall that it was rather amusing.
It's not often that I include hijacked snapshots of our Jets Among Men in uniforms other than the green and white. But in this case, from Corbis comes this remarkable 1973 picture (above) of #36 Bob Gresham - who played behind several other Jets running backs in 1975 and '76 - facing insurmountable odds. Playing for the Houston Oilers at the time, Gresham is about to be hit on both sides by the old and new Monsters of Midway - Dick Butkus and Wally Chambers, respectively. In other words, he is about to be plowed. He knows it, surely. In a moment, his vision will be blurred not just by the heavy blue-black of home uniforms but by the shattering, almost noiseless explosion that will take place in his head after these two linebackers hit him. Who knows - maybe even Butkus and Chambers will have some fragment of the experience too, so powerful and terminal do the impending hits seem in this frozen moment of portent.
I feel like Bob Gresham. It's not just my usual paranoia. Sometimes it just feels like the walls are closing in and you're about to be hit by two enormous men who are trained to knock people out of the game, and you're just little Bob Gresham. You come to work, you work hard, you gain your little 400-500 yards in a good season, running off of 2nd and 5, usually. But now you are about to meet one of the hits that will shorten your career and maybe even set you back a little. Here it comes.
"Most people believe 1972 was Steve Harkey 's best year." I love when I go to sites like armchairgm.com and encounter such appraisals. It was his best year, especially because running back Steve Harkey #36 gained 129 yards for the Jets that year, 67 more than he gained the previous one. If you look at how running backs start out, I guess you could say that Harkey was on his way to becoming another Bob Gresham, destined to someday be pummeled by a Hall of Fame linebacker or two. But instead, Harkey's career stops after '72, the rest is silence, and all that there is to find in the Jets' Yearbook is the following achievement: "Paved the way for a pair of George Nock TD runs in Week 3 14-10 win over MIA." Paved the way for George Nock. If that's all that you can leave behind, then so be it. You can meet George in #37.