FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - If real life was like television - if everyone's story featured a heartwarming message of redemption - we all know what would happen Saturday night in Indianapolis: Darrelle Revis would seal a Jets' victory with a gaudy, eye-popping interception of Peyton Manning in the final minute.
The bad boy of the preseason would be the hero of the postseason. All would be forgiven: The cornerback who was vilified across the blogosphere after his protracted training camp holdout would be celebrated as the man who got the Jets past the Colts in the playoffs.
Real life, however, is rarely so tidy. Things are said. Feelings are hurt. And even the happiest of endings can't completely take the sting out of the past.
"I'm not going to sit here and say me having a big game would erase everything that happened," Revis said. "Because it wouldn't. You can't erase what has happened. All you can do is grow from it."
It has a been a year of tremendous personal growth for Revis, who survived an acrimonious training camp holdout and serious hamstring injury to reclaim his position as the most feared player on the Jets' defense.
The trip back hasn't been easy. Along the way he has picked up a few scars, ones that those close to him believe have made him both a stronger player and a stronger person.
"That holdout took him somewhere else mentally," said Diana Gilbert, Revis' mother. "It has changed the way he looks at life. I see a different person this year. He has matured as a man."
Gilbert said her son, 25, now takes a bigger interest in his finances, has stopped going to nightclubs and spends more time with his two children, whom she brings to live with him for a week every month during the football season.
"My family has been with me the whole way," Revis said. "They really helped me get through."
During the 36-day holdout, which turned into the main story line of HBO's "Hard Knocks," it was hard for Revis to tune out what was being said and written about him. He was nicknamed "Mevis," and labeled as greedy and selfish. At one point Gilbert remembers her son turning to her with confusion in his eyes, wanting to know why it seemed that the Jets no longer wanted him.
"I had to remind him that he used to be a pretty good chess player," Gilbert said, "and this was like a tactic in a chess game."
Gilbert herself admits getting so angry about negative comments that she went on Facebook to respond. She said her son earns every penny of the four-year, $46-million deal, which includes $32 million guaranteed, he ultimately received. The sister of longtime NFL defensive end Sean Gilbert, who also serves as Revis' adviser, she has seen the toll a long football career takes on a player's body.
"It takes my brother 20 minutes to get out of bed every morning, and he's aching all day long from the injuries he got playing football," Gilbert said. "My son is taking his whole body out there and using it to work. That's what most people don't understand."
It is something understood, however, by opposing quarterbacks who have basically decided that the best way to deal with Revis is to ignore the side of the field he is on.
"A lot of guys have not thrown his way this year at all," Peyton Manning said earlier this week. "You can see that on film, they haven't thrown his direction because when you do, you better be accurate with the football."
In the first three years of his career, Revis was an acrobat in the defensive backfield. You constantly heard his name as it seemed that if he wasn't picking off a pass, he was the guy breaking it up. This year, however, he doesn't have an interception or a fumble recovery, simply because the ball hardly comes his way.
And that's just fine with Jets coach Rex Ryan.
"Quarterbacks drop back, say, 'What side is Revis on?' And then look to the other side of the field," Ryan said. "He's the best guy playing his position in the league and it isn't even close."