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Star-struck LIer Mike Catapano thrilled to be a Jet

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Mike Catapano acknowledges

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Mike Catapano acknowledges fans while walking to the locker room after a 28-2 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 8, 2013. Credit: AP

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Three words were all it took to send Mike Catapano's loved ones into a state of frenzy.

"I just texted them: 'I'm a Jet.' And they were like, 'Holy [----].' They couldn't believe it," the Bayville native told Newsday Wednesday after his first day on the practice field with his new teammates.

"My phone's been blowing up like crazy. Like I was just the MVP of the Super Bowl."

Catapano, a former Chief, flew in from Kansas City Monday night and worked out with the Jets on Tuesday. And within a matter of hours, he was signed to their practice squad.

"It's crazy," said the 25-year-old defensive end, who played football at Chaminade and Princeton. "I'm from Long Island, so I grew up a Jets fan. It feels like my backyard. I mean, this is my third year in the NFL and I'm still a little star-struck just seeing the green and white because you grow up watching guys like Wayne Chrebet and Curtis Martin when you're a little kid.

"I loved Kansas City and I'm very thankful for that opportunity there, to be honest. But this is the New York Jets. This is the team that I grew up watching, so it's different."

He became the first Princeton player drafted in more than a decade when the Chiefs selected him in the seventh round in 2013. But his release came as a bit of a surprise. Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters on Monday that Catapano wasn't really a fit for their 3-4 defensive scheme -- a comment that took the Long Island native by surprise.

"I saw that's what he said in the media, but I feel like I can do a lot of things, I can pass rush from a lot of different places. And I think that's what adds to my value," the 6-4, 270-pound defensive lineman said. "This is an aggressive-type defense where there's many different people getting after the passer."

Catapano had been scheduled to visit with the Bears on Wednesday and with the Packers on Friday following his New Jersey visit. "There was a bunch of teams that wanted to bring me in," he said, but the Jets made sure he didn't catch his next scheduled flight.

"The reception was real good, everybody seemed really excited about me," he said. "I feel like this defense could be a good fit for me. And I think after my workout, the coaches think that I can be a good fit too. This could be a good place for me."

But even though the local kid feels right at home in Florham Park, he knows that more work lies ahead.

"I'm having a lot of fun," Catapano said. "So this is Day One in the books, so I just have to keep getting better and get rolling with this team and try to help any way I can."

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