An Emotional Day As Wayne says Goodbye
It took no more than ten words for a larger than life professional icon to stop speaking and attempt to compose his emotions. Apparently walking away from millions of fans in the greatest city in the world takes a toll on one's heart.
Within moments of his opening and now final introduction, everyone packed inside Weeb Ewbank Hall's auditorium was taken back to the story of this hero's first epic journey to Jets headquarters. The only difference between Friday and 12 years ago was that this time, Wayne Chrebet decided to walk away on his own.
Going back to where it all began for this undrafted free agent from Hofstra, Chrebet was invited to travel the slimmest of marginal distance to Jets headquarters for a tryout with the Green and White. He walked from where he lived, across the Hempstead Turnpike, to his professional debut. However, when he first approached the gate for practice, he was initially turned away by a security guard, who - like many - neglected to see past his youthful looks to see the true competitor.
"At that moment I could either laugh it off and go on my journey or take it as a sign that it wasn't going to happen, but I didn't take that," said Chrebet. "I always told people I believed I could do this; I believed in myself."
Rather than comply to the negative indicator of the security guard that day, Chrebet stood as tall as his 5-10 body would stretch, and entered professional football simply on distant dreams, a blue-collar work ethic and perpetual courage; having no idea of the legacy he would soon create.
A legacy that he would have to finally part ways with after years of unhindered devotion.
On Friday morning, Chrebet officially announced his retirement through laughs, hugs and many tears. After completing his exclusive Jets career, Chrebet, alongside his family and friends, said farewell to the game, the people and the team he loved so dearly.
"I'm truly thankful for everybody who was with me for the ride," said Chrebet. "I'm just overwhelmed by the support I've received over the years, especially on days like this. I love you all."
In the blink of an eye, the Jets administration was witnessing one of their greatest sons slip out of their grasp after years of sacrifice and kinship.
"His story is one that has been told countless times, but bears repeating," said Jets Owner and CEO, Mr. Woody Johnson. "He overcame the doubters with persistence and hard work and talent, and he followed his dreams. He represented the Jets with class and dignity. We are thankful he is part of our franchise's fabric."
The question on most people's minds was if Wayne will ever turn to coaching, as many respected players in the league choose to do. The one problem with that is it's impossible to teach heart, courage, and love for the game with Xs and Os. There's no way to coach sacrifice.
"I'm going to be 33, but I feel like a kid still," Chrebet said. "I played a kid's game. I played football for a living. When I got to carry the torch and got a chance to put on the green and white and follow in the footsteps of people I've admired as athletes and players, you don't know what it feels like to know that I succeeded and I did it the right way in carrying on the Jet name as these players did before me. You can't imagine how it feels to be me right now."