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Jets' Revis meeting everyone's high expectations

New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) reacts

New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) reacts after intercepting a pass for the second time in the first half against the Carolina Panthers. (November 29, 2009) Credit: AP

The words, scrawled in ink, are displayed prominently on a coffee table in his bedroom.

Fifty-plus tackles. Eight interceptions. A Pro Bowl selection. And a Super Bowl ring.

Each line, written with care during the offseason, served as a daily reminder of what he hoped lay ahead - not only for Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis but for his team as well.

No one has to drive Revis. He does that all by himself.

It's a practice he adopted years ago to challenge himself, and it's worked.

Heading into Saturday's AFC wild-card game against Cincinnati, Revis, who was named to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year, has 54 combined tackles and six interceptions.

"I'm only one person," he said. "I just try to do the best I can."

His "best" just happens to be one of the key reasons the Jets are in the playoffs for the first time in his three-year career.

The Jets have the league's top-ranked defense, a blur of ever-changing packages that not only confuses but suffocates. And Revis, 24, a Pitt graduate, has been a big part of the unit's success.

Last week, Bengals wideout Chad Ochocinco became the latest big-name star to get lost on "Revis Island." The cornerback, named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Month for December / January, held him without a catch in the Jets' 37-0 win.

Before Ochocinco, there was New England's Randy Moss and Buffalo's Terrell Owens, both of whom Revis faced twice. And Carolina's Steve Smith, New Orleans' Marques Colston and Houston's Andre Johnson.

All have tried to win the battle with Revis this season, but a mere 22 catches for 175 yards is what these top-flight receivers have to show for their efforts.

Said safety Eric Smith: "He allows us to push the help the other way, basically just ignore his side of the field. I don't think we really look to him. It's like, 'Oh, there's Reve, we're gonna go this way then.' "

Revis' performances have been so consistently good that coach Rex Ryan repeatedly has said Revis is the No. 1 cornerback in the league.

"Week in and week out, he goes against the best that the NFL has to offer," Ryan said. "No corner in the league has been asked to do what he's been asked to do. I know you guys are tired of hearing me say it, but it's true. I hope he wins the Defensive MVP because he's as deserving a guy as I've ever been around, and I've been around some great ones.

"If somebody went back and really broke it down, this award [race] wouldn't be close."

Revis is a hybrid of just the right attributes: At 5-11, 200 pounds, he has the size and build to lock down short and tall receivers. He's physical and has great movement and ball skills, plus great instincts. And speed, of course.

Revis almost can't help it. It's in his genes.

His mother, Diana Gilbert, ran track at her son's prep alma mater, Aliquippa High School in Pennsylvania, and could have pursued an athletic scholarship to the University of Texas had she wanted to do so. His father, Darryl, received a football scholarship to play for Indiana.

And Gilbert's younger brother, Sean, also a Pitt alum, was a first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams and a defensive lineman for 11 NFL seasons.

Revis also is a student of the game. He spends hours poring over footage until he understands the splits and routes of the next big-time receiver on the Jets' schedule.

Even after holding Ochocinco without a reception last Sunday, Revis spent this past week preparing for him by watching even more tape.

Revis' presence on the field offers the Jets peace of mind. He patrols his area of the field without uncertainty or hesitation, and it's rare when he gives up a reception or is beaten in the end zone.

"If we're going against an elite receiver, it almost buys you an extra man on defense," defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "That's a huge advantage as a defensive coordinator. You can get a lot more creative in the things that you do."

Ryan has said the Jets' defense has been so successful - even with nose tackle Kris Jenkins' season-ending knee injury - because the unit is about the schemes, not just one player.

But the X-factor is Revis. "We're a unit, plus Darrelle," Ryan said with a laugh.

But Revis doesn't separate himself from his teammates. He's a leader, even though it's a role the soft-spoken cornerback assumes out of duty, not choice.

Secondary coach Dennis Thurman and Ryan encouraged him to speak up. And the more he resisted, the more they pushed.

"I told them I don't do that," Revis said with a laugh. "Certain guys might think, 'Why is he talking? Does he think he's better than people?' and things like that.

"But I think if you care about this team, you've got to take extra steps and jump outside the lines. And that's one of the things they wanted me to do. So I had to do it not just for me but for my teammates. Because I couldn't just look at myself."

The cornerback is just the latest star to emerge from Aliquippa, a poor steel town in Western Pennsylvania dotted with boarded-up houses.

Violence lurks around every corner there. But the town has a legacy of producing superior football talent. And Revis is just the latest star to emerge from its streets.

He grew up hearing the names Mike Ditka, Ty Law, Sean Gilbert and Pete Maravich. But never once did he think he would be mentioned among them.

"They're starting to mention me with those guys, but I'm still young. It's crazy," Revis said. "My dream was to be in the NFL. I never thought kids would be running around saying, 'I want to be Darrelle Revis.' "

Success, however, comes with its drawbacks - namely, the media's ever-present glare. Adjusting to that has been the toughest challenge for Revis. But he's thankful his family keeps him humble.

"Individual attention, it's cool. But you can't get caught up in yourself," Revis said. "If I'm talking to some kids, I'm talking to them about some real stuff. It's not because I hear the cheers. If you want to get where I'm at, it's hard work. Ain't nobody just going to give it to you."

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