“All my family members went to Hofstra, so I was always around Jet practices,” Garay said. “My older cousin, Carlos, played quarterback and Wayne Chrebet was his receiver. So throughout all my high school years I was always going to Jet games supporting Wayne.”
“I come from a very prideful family and community,” the Rahway, N.J., native said, “so being able to come back home and play in my backyard, I’ve got to take a lot of ownership and a lot of pride in everything I do every day.”
As the 33-year-old defensive lineman prepares to enter his eighth season in the NFL, he has taken pride in something that he believes holds the key to winning games: communication.
There could be as many as seven new starters on defense this year, head coach Rex Ryan said, making communication even more important this season.
“We need to understand that we can play alongside one another and maximize everyone’s abilities,” Garay said, “and once we start to get a better understanding of how to play off one another, I think that there’s a lot of promise and potential in what this defense could do.”
The chemistry along the defensive line has been strong, he said, and continues to get stronger as training camp dwindles down to its final days.
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He’s not a “rah-rah kind of guy,” but Antonio Garay’s “been around the block a little bit” so he does what he can to provide insight to his less-experienced teammates.
At times, however, the veteran teacher often turns to his disciples and becomes a student of the game himself. He’s trying to learn a new system with the Jets, after being away from the team for a few years, and the coaches have been using him at a variety of D-line positions outside of his regular spot at nose tackle.
“It’s kind of like we’re feeding off each other,” he said.
It’s important to understand the assignments of all position groups on defense, not just your own, Garay said.
“We all know what the objective is and that’s to stop the opposing team,” he said, “but when you get an idea and an understanding of what the other 10 guys around you are going to do, it makes your job that much easier.”
Their understanding of what everyone else on the defense is doing is so strong that “certain guys could play any one of the 11 positions out there,” he said.
OK, so maybe lining the 6’4”, 320-pound Garay at cornerback might not be the best idea. But he and most other guys on this defense would know what their task was supposed to be when the call came in, and that’s important for the defense’s ability to work as one group.
Strong communication combined with a “big, strong, physical, athletic team” has Garay excited to see just how successful this Jets squad can be.
Of course, growing up a follower of the Green & White himself, he understands that not all Jets fans share his optimism.“We’re not worried about what everyone else thinks and plans for us to do at the end of this year,” he said. “We have our own plans, we have our own goals, and I’m pretty confident that we’ll fulfill all those.”