Kevin Jones had been through the process before, watching players he's coached get their names called during the NFL draft.

There was something different about last Friday night, however, that almost brought the muscular Stamford (Conn.) High School football coach to tears. Vladimir Ducasse, a raw offensive lineman out of UMass and one of Jones' prized proteges, was drafted by the Jets with the 61st overall selection.

"I've coached in D.C. and Minnesota," Jones said. "I've had guys that have been first-round picks. Nothing compared to what happened [that] night for him. I get choked up now thinking about it. It was a good night."

That's because Jones knows better than anyone the long road Ducasse took to get here, a journey that continues Friday when he participates in the Jets' three-day rookie minicamp at the Florham Park, N.J., training facility.

Ducasse, along with one of his three brothers, MacArthur, was sent to the States from Haiti by his father, Delinois, seven years ago. Delinois was threatened for his involvement in Haitian politics and wanted a better life and improved educational opportunities for his two sons.

Ducasse played basketball in his native country but wasn't the least bit familiar with football, having never even witnessed a game until he set foot at Stamford. But during the very first day of fall practice in 2003, Ducasse approached Jones and said three magic words in his thick Haitian accent: "I want to play."

Though only 16 years old, Ducasse hovered at 6-3 and was 270 pounds. He initially was a gentle giant and was unnerved in his first game, thinking he accidentally crushed a defensive lineman as if he were going up against a Lilliputian.

"He was so raw that the first varsity game he was in, he knocked the kid over and actually apologized and picked him back up," Jones said. "And then we had to pull him aside and make sure that he understood that it was OK to do that."

Now, no one takes the soft-spoken 6-5, 330-pounder too lightly. A consensus FCS first-team All-American tackle in 2009, he's found the switch that allows him to channel his inner mean streak, and it flicks on the moment he steps on the field. "It's time to compete," Ducasse said. "I feel you can't walk onto the field like a nice guy or you're going to get popped. You have to get it going."

Ducasse picked the game up quickly and he'll need to be a fast learner again. The Jets released Alan Faneca last week in part because they thought Ducasse or Matt Slauson could step in and start at left guard.

"He believes he can come in and compete for that spot," Jones said. "That's what he wanted . . . He was praying that he would come here, and the opportunity for him to possibly start, that's all he wants. He's a guy that thrives on competition. So the more competition he has, the more he'll perform."

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