D'Brickashaw Ferguson walked off the football field, vowing never to return.
But thanks to the sage advice of his family, and his Freeport junior varsity coach Tim Halvorsen, Ferguson, then a frustrated gangly freshman at Freeport, kept at it, and eventually found the path to the Pro Bowl.
Latest Jets stories
These many years later, his journey has taken him here: to his 125th consecutive game since being drafted fourth overall by the Jets in 2006. It's the longest consecutive-starts streak, among all active players, from Day 1 of their NFL careers. And it doesn't include the seven playoff games Ferguson has started.
Asked what it takes to achieve such a goal, the Jets left tackle replied with a hearty laugh: "About eight years."
"It's a blessing that I've been able to stay healthy," added Ferguson, a former standout at Virginia. "People take their chance on you. I was drafted by this organization, they believed that I could play this position and I've just been trying to work hard ever since to prove them right."
Ferguson has been lucky to have longevity. But the course of his career hasn't always gone as planned. After reaching back-to-back AFC title games in 2009 and 2010, the Jets are in the midst of a two-year playoff drought and are on the brink of missing the postseason in 2013.
But Sunday's game against the Raiders (4-8) is a chance for their struggling offense -- led by rookie quarterback Geno Smith -- to get back on track. It's a chance for the Jets (5-7) to take a step toward finishing out the season strong and, possibly, making the playoffs. And it's also the latest step in Ferguson's career with the franchise.
"It's definitely been a wonderful experience," said the three-time Pro Bowler, who turns 30 Tuesday. "Highs and lows, but the challenges are always great and that's something that every week you're faced with.
"You're always facing the top defenders in this league. To go out there and do your best, that's all you can ask for."
Ferguson, a National Honor Society scholar, was Newsday's Thorp Award winner as Nassau County's most outstanding player and he also received the Martone Award for outstanding lineman. And throughout his eight-year NFL career, he's managed to stay connected to Long Island and his hometown of Freeport, where a nearly two-mile stretch on South Ocean Avenue is named D'Brickashaw Ferguson Way.
Ferguson never envisioned the trajectory his football career would take. But not surprisingly, the relatively quiet locker-room leader remained humble when approached this week about his franchise-record streak.
"It's been a blessing," Ferguson said. "I don't take too much credit for it because I know that any play you can go down and that can be something that could be your last. But I'm just thankful that I've been put in this position and I've been allowed to play this game."