This was the dream scenario for Jay Fiedler, the former Oceanside High School star who got the chance to play for his hometown team and spend the final years of his career in a Jets uniform.
Or so it seemed.
"I was signed up here hoping I'd be able to finish up my career and get a good four or five years in," Fiedler recalled the other day. "Unfortunately, fate had it a different way."
Fiedler, who enjoyed a solid run with the post-Dan Marino Dolphins from 2000-04, signed with the Jets as Chad Pennington's backup in 2005 and got his chance sooner than he expected. In the second half of a Week 3 game against the Jaguars, Pennington reinjured his surgically repaired right shoulder and Fiedler trotted onto the field.
Within a few minutes, he'd throw the final pass of his career.
Rolling out of the pocket to escape the pass rush, Fiedler threw a 16-yard pass to Justin McCareins. But just as he released the ball, Fiedler was tripped by a Jaguars defender and landed on his throwing shoulder. He tore his rotator cuff, labrum and biceps and damaged a bone in his upper arm. Reconstructive surgery was required, and Fiedler's career, which began in 1998 with the Vikings, was basically over.
But football still is very much a part of Fiedler's life. In fact, it remains the dominant theme.
The 43-year-old now trains other would-be NFL players -- from high school passers during weekly sessions at Westbury's Fundamental Sports Training and Farmingdale's Academy Sports Complex, to young players who attend his Brookwood Camps in Glen Spey, New York, to college players at renowned trainer Brian Martin's Parabolic Performance facility in Fairfield, New Jersey.
"Coaching kids has always been a passion of mine, especially growing up in a summer camp atmosphere with my dad being a high school basketball coach and having his summer camp [at Brookwood],'' said Fiedler, whose father, Ken, was a highly successful coach at Springfield Gardens in Queens. "I've had a good chance to have an impact on people."
Fiedler likely will have an impact on this year's draft as well as the scouting combine in Indianapolis this week. Several of the players he coaches at Parabolic are expected to be on NFL rosters in 2015. That includes Rutgers fullback Mike Burton, who is heading to the combine; Stony Brook tight end Will Tye, a promising prospect who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum, and Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova.
Martin has trained several NFL stars, including Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Jets linebacker Demario Davis. Fiedler has become Martin's quarterback guru and also serves as the program's offensive coordinator.
Martin sees Fiedler's background as a Dartmouth quarterback and his experience of succeeding Marino and helping the Dolphins to seasons with at least 10 wins as a perfect fit for preparing his players for the NFL experience.
"Jay is so cerebral, but he's also got a linebacker's mentality," Martin said. "He's got the intellect, but he's also got a lion inside of him. To me, it's the perfect match. Not only is he good on [grease] board work and film work, but he's also outstanding on the field."
Nova, who is preparing for his Pro Day on March 11, said Fiedler has made a huge difference in his mechanics.
"A lot of help with my footwork and stuff like that," said Nova, who threw 22 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions last year in Rutgers' inaugural season in the Big Ten. "I really didn't know how much hip mobility plays a part in the quarterback. I'm just trying to learn from him and get better every time I work with him."
Burton, who could be a mid-round pick, said Fiedler's expertise also has helped.
"Just the technique in how to run the pass routes, what to expect and things like that have been amazing," said Burton, who also works with former NFL running back Darian Barnes. "He has the experience and the resume, and he's really helped me out. Been a great experience with him."
Tye, who transferred to Stony Brook from Florida State in 2013, agreed. "[Fiedler] has taught me that it's not all about running fast," he said. "Sometimes, slow it down and run more precise routes, turn your head first instead of your hips. A lot of the route-running is about timing."
One of Fiedler's former teammates with the Dolphins, wide receiver Chris Chambers, also has gotten into the business of training young players at his facility in South Florida, and the two have partnered with football camps. Chambers became Fiedler's go-to receiver in Miami, and the two now share their knowledge with the next generation.
"This is a really important time for players getting ready for the NFL, but also for players who are in the league," said Chambers, who trains Florida State wide receiver Rashad Greene, a potential first-round pick. "Now that the offseason is longer, you really need to get your body ready for the season."
Like Fiedler, Chambers loves to coach, and his new venture gives him that chance. The two will continue collaborating, even if Fiedler-to-Chambers will have a different meaning.
"It's really great to see kids grow," said Fiedler, who lives in Garden City. "I remember the first time I did this [in 1999], I put together a whole practice plan and really tried to simplify it from the pro level. I went out there the first day and saw that the kids weren't getting it, so I ripped it up and started from scratch.
"After seeing the kids make that much improvement in three days, imagine what I could do if I could continue working with them and see them progress throughout the years."