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Friday, May 31, 2013

NY Jets #64 - Part 4

Three Jets remain in our discussion of #64. When we finish, we will then be discussing some truly important figures in the tattered history of our franchise. From numbers 65 to 99, there's going to be a lot to talk about. From numbers 45 to 64, it's been pretty lean. Let me tell you. The irony is that for every player about which there has been little to say, there's actually been a lot to write about. Sometimes that's just the way. Maybe the most interesting people are the ones with the least play time. Maybe I feel that way because I'm looking, as I'm wont to do, into my own life and feeling like one of the nameless numbered. So, here we go. One last journey into yet another round of otherwise unknown Infinites, before we talk about the likes of Rasmussen, the Sack Exchange, Al Toon, and Wesley Walker. 

Stay with us.

Gregg Robinson #64 played a single season for the Jets in 1978, a very important year for Jets fans of a certain era. If you were born in 1965, the year Namath arrived in New York, you were three years old when they won the AFL Title, which means you were probably too young to remember it. Sixty-five was the year my wife was born, and she claims that she can remember contemplating the double negative in the Turtles' "Happy Together:" "I can't see me lovin' nobody but you for all my life..." She claims to remember this being on the radio in 1967, when the song went to #1, and when she was two. That seems impossible, but like I say, I can remember thinking that George Sauer had mashers on his hands when I was staring at him from my crib. Who am I to question it? The point is that if you don't remember Namath's guaranteed win, you were then old enough - and had suffered enough - to have greeted Gregg Robinson's first season with the Jets with glee, strictly because they broke even at 8-8. That was cause for celebration.

Robinson came from Dartmouth, whose greatest contemporary NFL player was Reggie Williams of the Bengals in the 70's and 80's and Jay Fiedler, who graced us briefly in #9. A comprehensive list of Dartmouth players shows that Robinson's only season in pro football was with the Jets that year, and there is no clear statistical data to indicate if he had more than a cup of coffee with us. But he was drafted in the sixth round that year. From hindsight there was not much else to pick in that round, or in any subsequent one that year. Had they not drafted Robinson at defensive end, the Jets might have chosen Doug Betters, who went on to have a respectable career with Miami through most of the 80's. And it's not as if the Jets lacked any real strength on the front line by the end of the decade, anyway. So we can leave Gregg Robinson be, with nothing much to say about him nor with any of our usual lingering, gnawing regrets.

Nor can we be much more informative about the career of Ed Walsh #64 who played for the New York Titans in 1961. Walsh is said to have enjoyed six games in a Titans uniform and then his AFL career was done. "Enjoying" six games with the Titans might be an odd way of phrasing it. Had he known better, would he have preferred to have taken nothing at all?

Nevertheless, on September 17 that season, in a week 2 see-saw battle with Buffalo at War Memorial Stadium ("the Rockpile") the Bills defeated the Titans 41-31, and Walsh, a tackle, touched the ball twice on two kick returns. He is said to have totaled fifteen yards on two tries. Whether he was deep back for the kick or just the recipient of a couple of squibs, we cannot know. All we do know are the basics of the day: 55 degrees, relative humidity 68%, wind 5 mph. On a calm but partly cloudy day, Ed Walsh had the ball.

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Offensive tackle Dave Yovanovits #64 was drafted by the Jets in 2003, the same year as his classmate at Temple, Dan Klecko, the son of the future Hall of Famer. To know the relish with which the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote of their being drafted, one must know the nature of the city's largest university and its sports. While Temple normally features prominently in basketball, its football program has struggled mightily. When I went with my brother to see the Temple-Syracuse football game back in 1997 at the Vet, it was as if we had come upon a bunch of homeless guys squabbling in an abandoned cathedral. Temple students love their school, but they don't have the kind of devotional attachment that Penn State students have to their Happy Valley. John Chaney embodied the rueful quality of student life at Temple when I went there for grad school in the early 1990's just as Paterno embodied the mythical oblivion of the state university in the mountains. Temple's football remained an obscure reference at the school, a well-kept secret because no one on campus cared for it very much.

When he was drafted, Yovanovits, "who started 43 of 45 games and played every offensive snap in 41 games at Temple," was slightly surprised. "My agent was saying I had a good chance to be drafted," he said, "but all along I expected to be a free agent." 

He grew up in New Jersey, yet preferred to be a 49ers fan, probably like millions of kids who grew up in the 1990's. The only other thing I'll mention about Yovanovits is his nickname. When he was drafted, Temple coach Bobby Wallace said the following:

"I wasn't sure Yogi was going to get drafted until the last two months..."

We can assume that his nickname is some version of his last name, and anyone is entitled to it, though I would feel almost bashful if someone gave it to me. But even the reason for why Lawrence Berra received his nickname while growing up on the Hill in St. Louis was because when he sat down, he looked like a yogi. Yogi Yovanovits was named for a man who was named for something he resembled. If history is to be believed, it was Berra's childhood teammate Bobby Hofman, a major leaguer himself, who first noticed Berra's manner of repose and called him a yogi. We often like to notice the cosmic significance of things here at the blog; you never know what your gift of naming names will add to the lives of people yet unborn.

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