Jets guard Willie Colon won't settle for losing
Willie Colon would sequester himself in his room, waiting until the anger subsided.
He'd scowl and curse under his breath, replaying the missed opportunities over and over in his mind. Meanwhile, his family would tiptoe around his aggression, refusing to utter a sound until the middle child of the household deemed it safe to do so.
It didn't matter that those losses came on a high school basketball court or football field. Winning was all that mattered to Colon.
"He does not like to lose,'' his mother, Jean Davis, said, emphasizing each word during a recent phone interview with Newsday. "[If] they lost, it was like, 'OK, nobody say anything.' ''
After all these years, the 30-year-old Colon still has that competitiveness.
Although his mom said he's a "big teddy bear'' to those closest to him, the Jets right guard has brought a much-needed tough-guy mentality to his new team. And although his six years in Pittsburgh were plagued by injuries (resulting in his March release), the Bronx native and Hofstra product has one thing most of his new teammates don't: a Super Bowl ring.
Colon has been "to the mountaintop and back,'' he said. But after being treated "like royalty'' with the Steelers, he now finds himself trying to inject attitude back into the building at One Jets Drive.
He's not used to losing.
And he certainly won't accept mediocrity.
"There's a lot of guys who want to turn this around. You can see it in their eyes,'' said the 6-3, 315-pound lineman, whose late father, Willie Sr., played semiprofessional basketball. "You just get tired of it. After a while, you want to be respected.''
But respect, he knows, must be earned.
"I think a lot of guys are starting to get that feeling in their stomach; a lot of guys are trying to fight,'' he said. "But we just need more guys to rally the troops and we'll be ready to go.''
Fighting comes naturally for Colon.
When you've watched your mother struggle to survive, pushing oneself on the gridiron becomes a far easier task.
The joint pain and extreme fatigue were the first signs of trouble. Then her blood pressure escalated. It took more than a year and a half -- which included a misdiagnosis of arthritis and a seizure that left her unable to walk -- before the real culprit was discovered in 1989. Davis was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs.
Colon was in the first grade.
"Will was really, really devastated by that,'' said Davis, who is in her early 60s and still lives in the Bronx. (Willie's older sister, Joy Smith-Jones, is an assistant principal at Thomas C. Giordano Middle School 45 in the Bronx.)
Davis added: "When I left [for the hospital], I could walk. And here I come back and I'm in a wheelchair. They taught me how to walk again. So for a while there, it was kind of shaky.''
"William,'' as she often calls him, never wanted to leave her side. He reluctantly went to school but hurried home each day to ensure that his "best friend'' was OK.
"Sometimes I have to remind him I'm the mother,'' said the 5-2 Davis, who now is down from three dialysis treatments a week to one. "He's very protective. He always wants to play that big role.''
Colon has always been fiercely loyal. That's why instead of going to UMass or Delaware, he told his mother: "I want to go to Hofstra.''
Davis insisted he not worry about her, or the distance between them, when deciding on the right college. "But he said: 'No, I want to be closer to you,' '' his mother said.
Colon, who began playing football at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, also played briefly with his younger brother Antonio at Hofstra. And now he's found a new family with the Jets.
He was selected in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft -- the same year the team took left tackle and Freeport product D'Brickashaw Ferguson fourth overall and center Nick Mangold 29th. The elder statesmen of the Jets' offensive line welcomed him without hesitation, he said.
"It wasn't like I came in and they said, this guy has to earn our respect. Obviously, I felt like I had to, but they didn't shun me out,'' said Colon, who signed a one-year, $1.2-million deal in March. "They were like, 'Hey, man, we need you. Just put in the work, we'll get you along.' ''
He said he walked away with "a lot of respect'' for the Jets last year after the Steelers beat them, 27-10, in Week 2. But as the season wore on, he watched from a distance as the "circus'' -- his word -- descended upon Florham Park.
"You had the [Tim] Tebow situation, you had the ongoing stuff in the media, all that anonymous stuff. From the outside looking in, it was like, 'Man, those guys don't got their stuff together,' '' said Colon, who roomed with Ferguson in training camp. "When people talk about the Jets organization, they kind of write us off. And that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I'm not going to settle for that. I'm not going to let the guys around me settle for that.''
That's the type of player Jets coach Rex Ryan relishes.
"I love the presence of Willie Colon,'' Ryan said. "He brings a mentality and there's a certain presence that he has out there. You're glad he's on your side.
"He's that guy you want in that foxhole with you.''
Colon is eager to prove that he and the Jets shouldn't be overlooked in 2013.
"I have a Super Bowl ring, I've been to AFC Championships, I've kind of been to the mountaintop and back, and now I'm coming home,'' he said. "I've always been the kind of guy who's never worried about the team I'm with, more so the impact that I can make. So it was a no-brainer for me to come here.''