Say Wayne Chrebet's name and it all comes flooding back. The receptions, the relentlessness. The recollections.
The first stories were classic. About how Harry the Guard almost chased him away from Weeb Ewbank Hall on his first day of training camp. About how the undrafted free agent from Hofstra slept on his friend's couch through camp and into the start of his rookie season because at any moment the dream could end, the Turk would knock on his door and tell him to see the head coach and, oh, by the way, Chrebet, bring your playbook.
Who would have thought a dozen years later, Jets fans would celebrate a multitude of memories of No. 80 during a Jets game at the Meadowlands?
"It's huge," Chrebet said of the concept. "People say it all the time, but it's truly, truly, truly an honor. It's not something I expected at any point in my career, that they'd have a Wayne Chrebet Day. I'm just looking forward to getting back on the field one more time."
Chrebet will do that Sunday at the Jets' game against the Miami Dolphins during a halftime ceremony commemorating his 11-year career in green and white.
And the heartwarming part of these festivities is that Chrebet can fully enjoy them.
"I'm out of the clouds now," he said, "looking to make a comeback."
Besides all his catches, Chrebet will also be associated with the concussions that ended his career midway through the 2005 season. More than a year later, in February he told me he was still struggling with postconcussion problems, calling them "puzzling" and saying he was "more concerned" than he used to be. But since then, he's made a remarkable comeback.
"I'm perfectly fine." he said in the past several days. "All I know is I lost at least six months of my life where I don't know what happened, I don't know where I was. I just remember the last concussion happening, then I just kind of remember waking up one day way down the road and feeling I was back into it. I'm good now."
That's one of many reasons to offer another round of applause for Chrebet. The cheers could also be for any of his 580 receptions (plus 19 more in the playoffs), or his 41 touchdowns, or for the way he fought for every inch of those 7,365 receiving yards.
It could be for his love of the game that was on display every time he and his Jets took on Miami.
"There was nothing like putting on the pads and playing the Patriots or the Dolphins. I think a lot of people would agree about that," he said. "Some of those big games we had with the Dolphins on Monday Night Football, them coming up here or us going down there — there's a lot of great memories of those games, a lot of great battles."
Chrebet recalled his first regular-season game as an NFL player, the 1995 season opener at Miami, and his first pro reception, a 27-yarder from Boomer Esiason in the second quarter.
"That first game was a test to see if I belonged or not — it meant a lot to me," he said. "And my first catch was probably the toughest one of my career. I caught the back end of the ball from Boomer. I saw this pass go up and I was thinking, 'I really don't think I'm going to get it.'
"If that pass goes through my fingers, who knows where it goes from there? That's a weird way to look at it, but my career could've gone one way or another."
Ever the nervous rookie. But Chrebet proceeded to cement his spot in Jets lore with many more tough catches and big games. Another Miami meeting still looms large in Wayne's world: the 2000 Monday Night Miracle. Then a sixth-year pro, he caught two touchdown passes from his good friend, Vinny Testaverde, the second tying the game for the first time at 30-30. The Jets, lest you forgot, prevailed, 40-37, in overtime after trailing by 30-7.
"That was the sickest game to be involved in," he said. "You're so down on yourselves. Then we make a play, we make two plays, then we start looking at each other and saying, 'I don't know if they can stop us.' That was a butt-whipping at a certain point, and it became the best story of the year if not the decade for the Jets."
Chrebet never did reach his holy grail, the Super Bowl, coming as close as the Jets' 10-0 lead at Denver in the Broncos' 23-10 win in the 1998 AFC Championship Game.
"I feel now exactly how I felt on the plane ride home. You know you're 30 minutes away from the ultimate goal but it's just not working out for you," he said darkly. "And then never getting close again ... that was tough to swallow. It still is."
Chrebet also didn't reach another milestone, the franchise career record of 627 receptions set by Don Maynard from 1960-72. But he's not unhappy that he came up 48 catches short of the mark.
"I have so much admiration for Mr. Maynard. What he came from, he deserves to keep that record," he said. "For most of my career I was going catch by catch. Then you start passing people you admired and you grew up watching. Once I had 500, it was just a matter of staying healthy and being consistent. And obviously, my health took a turn for the worse."
But now he says he's "looking for another dare-to-be-great situation." He owns his "horse of a lifetime," 3-year-old filly pacer Southwind Tempo who's been racing in Ohio and Canada. He says his restaurant, Chrebet's, across Hempstead Turnpike from the Jets' upper grass practice field, is doing well. His family is well and so is his health.
"I'm truly blessed," he said. "Things are back where they should be."
And Sunday he'll be back where he used to be, in his home office from 1995-2005, again in front of a crowd of Jets fans, many of whom will be wearing their No. 80 jerseys one more time.