FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Wayne Chrebet will live out a dream on Monday night when he's inducted into the Jets' Ring of Honor at halftime of the Jets-Dolphins game at MetLife Stadium.
Finally, something for Jets' fans to cheer about during this dreadful 2-9 season.
The Dolphins are the perfect team to welcome Chrebet into the ultimate circle of trust. Chrebet enjoyed some of his greatest moments against them, including one of the most memorable Monday night games in NFL history. But it was another game against Miami that Chrebet initially flashed back to when he pondered his 11-year run with the Jets. It was the first game of his career on Sept. 3, 1995.
There he was, breaking the huddle for the Jets' first offensive play, and Boomer Esiason signaled for Chrebet to go in motion. Chrebet didn't move. After the play was over, Esiason asked Chrebet why he didn't move.
"I'm like, 'That's Don Shula and Dan Marino over there,' '' Chrebet said, pointing in awe at the Dolphins' sideline. "Boomer's like, 'You've got to get into the game.' ''
And who can forget that Monday night thriller against the Dolphins in 2000. Dubbed "The Monday Night Miracle," the Jets outlasted the Dolphins, 40-37, in overtime as the Jets scored 30 points in the fourth quarter to tie the score.
"By the end of that game, we had run so many plays, the same play over and over, that in the huddle, Vinny [Testaverde] is like, 'Do one of these or do one of these,' '' Chrebet said, pointing to his chest and diagramming a play. "It was like straight playground football."
Chrebet, the "Everyman" receiver who made it big in the NFL after starring at Hofstra, remains immensely popular with Jets' fans, many of whom still wear his No. 80 jersey. And he will no doubt be welcomed with a huge ovation during the Ring of Honor ceremonies. Leon Hess, the late former owner of the Jets, also will be inducted.
"I'm honored," said Chrebet, who grew up in Garfield, New Jersey, just a few miles from the Meadowlands. "It's something I've certainly thought about."
Chrebet, 41, remains a Jets fan and is disappointed by the team's record. But he also knows from experience that what happens in these last five games is important to every player on the roster and every coach on the sideline.
"My first year, we were 3-13," he said of the 1995 season. "My friends were busting my chops about how bad we were. I said, 'Listen, it can't get any worse.' ''
It did. The next year, the Jets went 1-15 and coach Rich Kotite was fired after just two seasons.
"The best advice I have is to find a way to have fun," Chrebet said. "It's real easy to get distracted when you're mathematically eliminated. I've been there. But these guys are playing for their contracts, playing for their jobs. I feel for them.
"Some guys are going to go through the motions, and some guys are going to look at it as an opportunity to shine in a bad season," he said. "Sometimes, it's not too hard to stand out when people are going through the motions and thinking about picking up a paycheck."
Chrebet was a fierce competitor until he couldn't compete any more because of concussion-related problems that ended his career after the 2005 season. Chrebet, who said he has "good days, bad days, more good than bad lately," never took a play off.
That left him more vulnerable to concussions, and he struggles with some memory loss, as well as the fear that he may one day suffer longer-term consequences, including dementia or Alzheimer's.
"When you sign up [to play], you expose yourself to these things," he said. "I knew the risks. It is what it is."
Am I concerned about the future and what I read about? Me and my wife talk about it. [WE'LL]just make the best of it. The damage is done. If something happens down the road, so be it."
Chrebet has three sons, ages 12, 10 and 3, and the two oldest play flag football. Chrebet said his oldest son will give tackle a try in the next few years. On one condition. "I have to be the coach," Chrebet said. "I have to make sure they're put in the right situation, know how to tackle, know how to play. I need to see everything they do. It's scary. You hear the scary stories."
No scary thoughts Monday, though. Just a celebration of a great career for one of the most popular players in franchise history. A welcome respite from another Jets' season gone bad.