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LI's ex-Jets happy to see team in championship game

Watching on television from his Dix Hills home, Wesley Walker has marveled as the Jets veered from the brink of missing the playoffs to being one win from the Super Bowl.

Sunday, the former Jets wide receiver again will be watching from Long Island, hoping this team can accomplish what his squad couldn't: win the AFC Championship.

"We were in a similar situation where nobody really gave us a chance. So, yeah, I'm pulling for them Sunday," said Walker, who caught one pass in a 14-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game at the end of the 1982 season.

Walker, now 54 and a physical education teacher at Park View Elementary School in Kings Park, is one of a small cadre of former Jets from the 1982 team who retired into suburban life on Long Island.

Greg Buttle, the hard-charging linebacker who ran an eponymous sports bar in East Meadow after his 1984 retirement, settled down in Northport and raised three children with his wife, Rita.

Running back Freeman McNeil, the second-leading rusher in team history who retired after the 1992 season, has lived in the Huntington area for more than two decades, raising two sons with his wife, Rosaria.

Marty Lyons, part of the "New York Sack Exchange" defensive line, moved around Long Island - from Freeport to Melville to Centerport, before putting down roots in Smithtown 13 years ago.

Long Island was convenient because the Jets practiced at Hofstra University until last year and played at Shea Stadium until 1983. But its good schools and suburban lifestyle were also attractive.

"Long Island just seemed like a great place to raise a family," said Lyons, 53, whose four children have graduated from or are attending Smithtown schools.

Though none of the former players hailed from New York, their Jets loyalty runs deep.

Lyons parlayed his celebrity into the Marty Lyons Foundation, which grants wishes for terminally ill children. He's also a color commentator for Jets games on ESPN 1050 radio.

After being cut by the Jets, Buttle, 55, focused on his East Meadow sports bar, Buttles, and opened other local businesses - a fitness club, a restaurant, an airport valet service. Now he also hosts Jets talk shows on ESPN radio and SportsNet New York.

Both Lyons and Buttle will be watching from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Like the 1982 team, the Jets are playing against the odds.

"Nobody in the world thought they would be here," Buttle said. "They're the underdog, they're feeling no pressure."

Walker isn't sure where he'll catch the game. He may have a paid public appearance Sunday, but he'll be thinking about it.

"If I really had my way, I'd be at my friend's house, sitting and watching the Jets with friends," he said.

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