It was quite an NFL career, as the Cro flies.
Antonio Cromartie, the multi-skilled cornerback who spent five of his 11 pro seasons in two stints with the Jets, announced his departure from the game on his Instagram account Monday.
"Today is the day I knew I would eventually have to face, but one I never wanted to accept," Cromartie wrote. "[A]fter much consideration and prayer, I'd like to officially announce my retirement."
Cromartie began his NFL life as the first-round choice (19th overall) of the 2006 draft by San Diego. He put opposing offenses and special teams on notice with 15 interceptions in his four years with the 'Bolts, including a league-leading 10 INTs in 2007 — when he first donned his iconic No. 31 jersey. That was also the year he set the NFL record for the longest play of any kind, his 109-yard missed field goal return at Minnesota. (Cordarrelle Patterson is the only other player with a 109-yard play, a kickoff return for the Vikings vs. the Packers in '13.)
The man also known as "Cro" and "Ton" and "AC" began his stretch in green and white when the Jets sent a second-round pick to SD in March 2010. His impact with the Jets, both individually and as part of the same defensive backfield with CB Darrelle Revis, was considerable.
A Look at CB Antonio Cromartie's Career in Green & White
■ Cromartie registered 13 interceptions, with a Jets-career-high four for 105 return yards in '11 and his only return TD as a Jet, off of an interception of Ryan Fitzpatrick in the 2012 season opener vs. Buffalo. In each of his five Jets seasons except for his last, when he returned to the team after one season with Arizona, he had at least three picks, and in all five seasons he unofficially posted double digits in pass defenses for a total of 64.
■ He also asked for and got reps as the Jets' kickoff and punt returner. As the kickoff man, he had 41 regular-season returns for a healthy 24.2-yard average. His Jets-long return was a 54-yarder against the Jaguars in '15 but his most significant return was the 47-yarder that got the ball rolling toward Nick Folk's walkoff 32-yard field goal that beat the Colts in Indianapolis, 17-16, in the 2010 AFC Wild Card Round.
■ He was named to four Pro Bowl squads, two as a Jet, after the 2012 and '13 seasons, and was named the Curtis Martin Team MVP on a vote of his teammates late in the '12 season.
■ He started 81 of a possible 83 games as a Jet, including three playoff games. That also included a rare NFL double as a starter on both defense and offense at WR in the 2012 game at Jacksonville.
■ When Cromartie teamed up with Revis in 2010-12 and '15, the Jets played some of the NFL's best pass defense. In those four seasons they were ranked sixth, fifth, second and 13th in the league in net passing yards allowed/game
Cromartie wore his trademark smile when he spoke with me and Eric Allen upon his return to the Jets in 2015 to be teamed again with Revis.
"I'm still in great shape. This is year 10 now, I'm in double digits in my career. So it's just at the point of looking at it as always having fun. I enjoy football. I just want to have fun with it," he said. "I don't think it's so much déjà vu. I just look at it as a chance to come back home."
Antonio Cromartie played his football all around our great country. He was born in Tallahassee, schooled at Florida State in college and with the Chargers on the West Coast as a young pro, and made stops with Arizona in '14 and Indianapolis in '16. He wasn't "home" with the Jets for a long, long time. But he still left an indelible impression on Jets fans. All the best in retirement, AC.