Resting one foot on his locker stool, Darrelle Revis leaned forward and rubbed his short black beard.
“Man, you’re taking me back,” he said, smiling.
A wave of nostalgia washed over him as he revisited his past and then contemplated his future. For years, he was the standard — the cornerback capable of stranding receivers, of any size, on his one-man island.
But he no longer is the undisputed shutdown corner in the NFL, the unquestioned No. 1 at his position. Now, Revis is known by other names in the locker room.
The playful jabs are signs of respect for the elder statesman, who, at 31, is as much an asset on the field as he is behind closed doors. But those nicknames are also indicative of the changing times. And Revis knows it.
During a candid interview with Newsday, the 10-year veteran opened up about being an aging NFL star and why he’s considering an eventual position switch to safety.
“You’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to adjust to the way people view you,” said Revis, a seven-time Pro Bowler, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2014. “It shows you how fast you do grow up in this league and how old you become.
“When I was 24, 25, people were like, ‘You’re the shutdown corner.’ Now, people are like, ‘He’s the G.O.A.T.’ or they call me ‘Uncle Drew,’ ” Revis said of being referred to as the “greatest of all time” or the old-man alter ego created by NBA star Kyrie Irving. “They call me ‘Uncle Buck.’ They’ve got all these crazy ‘Uncle’ or older vet-type of names. It’s cool, though.”
Revis’ training camp dust-up with teammate Brandon Marshall and his two preseason picks in as many games signaled the old Darrelle was back after offseason wrist surgery. “He looks quick, explosive. Everything we had hoped for,” defensive backs coach Joe Danna said.
But as competitive as he is, Revis is a realist.
He has no doubt he can still play cornerback at a high level. But the time will come when that no longer is true.
“As you get older, you start looking at your own career,” he said. “ . . . At some point I’m not going to be able to play the cornerback position the way I want to play it. I don’t want to just be out there playing the cornerback position and hurting the team.
“I want to continue playing football at a high level.”
Jets coach Todd Bowles — a former NFL safety and Super Bowl champion with the Redskins — said he’s “never discussed” a position change with Revis, adding that his view and expectations of his star cornerback haven’t changed.
Revis isn’t sure when the conversation will be held, but he envisions one day joining the ranks of other great shutdown corners-turned safeties. In fact, Charles Woodson, a nine-time Pro Bowler who retired in January, has been sharing “bits and pieces” of his transition with Revis over the years.
“Playing the corner position, you’re out there by yourself,” Revis said. “You have to hold up, and play it well. And eventually, you’re going to have to say one year or before the year starts, ‘Hey, I might need to move my position because I feel like I can’t play this position anymore.’ ”
Football is a young man’s game.
“I wish I could have the fountain of youth and be 24 years old forever,” he said. “But eventually, as you get older, you have to adjust to what your body’s telling you.”
The names flowed from his lips as his mind wandered back to a time when the Jets’ roots were firmly entrenched on Long Island.
He vividly remembers the old days at Hofstra and what it felt like to walk through a locker room filled with established NFL players — guys he had watched transition from college to the pros.
“Man, I watched Shaun Ellis at Tennessee, I watched Laveranues (Coles) at Florida State. I watched Chad (Pennington) at Marshall,” Revis said. “So for me, it was, wow. Like, I’m actually here with guys I used to look up to.”
Within the first month of his rookie year in 2007, he earned the nickname “Baby Lockdown” from former Jets safety Kerry Rhodes. Almost a decade later, Revis is the guy young defensive backs still try to imitate.
“Any aspiring NFL corner says he’s going to watch Darrelle Revis. And that’s the truth,” said rookie cornerback Juston Burris, who studied Revis’ highlights on YouTube while in college. “I said that. And I did that. I emulated his game. He’s so technically-sound. That’s what I needed. I needed to look up to that . . . Having a guy like that in the locker room, being able to lean on him for things because he’s been through everything, has been a blessing.”
The fourth-round pick tried not to be too starstruck when he first laid eyes on Revis, a five-time All-Pro. But it wasn’t easy. Said Burris: “You’re like, ‘Aw man. That’s Darrelle Revis.’ ”
Revis’ bump-and-run coverage is his trademark. But it’s his intangibles that could make all the difference for the Jets this season. “He’s very helpful on the sidelines,” Bowles, whose defense finished fourth overall in 2015, said in August. “He has a good way of teaching and making them understand it without going through a whole lot of detail. He puts them in position on the field and makes them see things that they wouldn’t normally see.”
Revis has had to give up part of the spotlight as the undisputed No. 1 corner to players such as Josh Norman of the Redskins and Richard Sherman of the Seahawks. One day, Revis will have to step aside to let the young guys pass. But that time is not now.
Revis Island beckons.
“Oh, yeah. It’s still a main attraction,” Revis said, belly-laughing. “People still want to come and vacate. So it’s still open.”