FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — His locker stall was all but empty and had no name or number. Still, Victor Ochi was beaming.
It took him a week, but the Valley Stream native finally found his way back to the Jets by officially signing to their practice squad on Monday. Now, he’s all smiles — and rocking the same uniform colors his parents have cheered for his entire life.
“It feels good,” the former Stony Brook and Ravens edge rusher told Newsday after Monday’s walkthrough practice. “Especially because my parents are Jets fans. Like, legit [fans].”
Ochi, however, was too much of “a rebel” growing up to align himself with his parents’ team, so he rooted for the Giants instead.
“They’ve been Jets fans as long as I’ve been a Giants fan growing up,” said Ochi, 22. “My father’s been watching football before I did. He’s been into the game for a long time.”
Ochi said his dad didn’t own any Jets jerseys when he was a kid, but “he liked Curtis Martin a lot.” Well, now his father is free to purchase a custom jersey with his own last name on the back.
Ochi’s arrival on Monday signaled a new chapter in a journey already filled with personal triumphs and disappointments. After bruising his right rotator cuff in Baltimore’s preseason finale, he was released by the Ravens on Sept. 3. The Jets — who wanted to sign him as an undrafted free agent in the spring — worked him out last week. But Ochi could barely raise his arm and failed the physical. However, the organization accidentally announced that Ochi had been added to the practice squad due to a clerical error by the public relations department.
The Long Island native remained undeterred.
Other teams had already expressed interest in signing him to the practice squads once he was healthy, but the Jets were highest on his list.
“I knew I wasn’t done playing football,” he said hours after passing his second physical. “At the end of the day, I knew that I had more opportunity elsewhere so I didn’t want to stress about the things I couldn’t control. The business is the business. It’s never going to stop. So what I control is what I do on the field. And that’s what I really was trying to get prepared for by rehabbing my shoulder.”
Donning an NFL uniform is nothing new for Ochi, who spent four months with the Ravens. But wearing green and white right now? That’s an entirely different feeling altogehter.
“It feels like a fresh start,” said Stony Brook’s all-time sacks leader with 32 1⁄2. “I was able to start off with a clean state. I like my opportunities out here a lot more than they were in Baltimore. So it’s a chance for me to really take advantage of the moment.”