Dwight lines up for the snap
To help implement his strict code of football ethics - better known as Jets Core Values - head coach Eric Mangini brought with him a seasoned veteran who could exemplify those specific traits for the rest of the 2006 Jets roster.
In need of another focused, hard-working player with good communication skills, the Jets turned to wide receiver and punt returner Tim Dwight. An NFL veteran of eight seasons, Dwight was handpicked out of free agency in the offseason by the front office because of these very traits.
"You talk about competitive, that is Tim," Mangini said. "Tim is competitive at everything he does. His work ethic is outstanding - he has great intangibles. He's fearless; he's got that high motor that doesn't stop."
In March, Dwight came to Hempstead via Foxborough, just as Mangini had done two months earlier. Not only was Dwight familiar with Mangini, he had also spent four seasons with the Jets' first-year offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, when Schottenheimer served as quarterbacks coach for the San Diego Chargers.
"Tim has been really good for us," said Mangini. "He has played in this system before in San Diego, so that has been valuable to the whole receiving core. Tim also played in New England, so he has seen philosophically some of the things I believe in. It is beneficial on both of those fronts."
Mangini made sure to have Dwight and other players with similar character on the '06 roster. With an abundance of young players and coaches, experience and familiarity was critical in relation to team growth and success.
"The fact that Tim had familiarity in the system is a plus because he can help younger players, which Tim is great about doing," Mangini said. "He works with the younger guys and all of the players with the system - some of the nuances, some of the things that have helped him. That is valuable."
Dwight didn't mind becoming the "older" guy on the team that everyone looked up to either.
"You try to establish yourself as a professional," said the former Iowa Hawkeye. "Some of things on the offense I'm good at, some of the things I'm not very good at. I am just trying to give my two cents here and there and keep my mouth shut when I don't know what I'm talking about. I go out there and try to lead by example of playing hard.
"I think it was an opportunity, a place where I could help out in starting something," Dwight added. "This team has a lot of heart, a lot of character."
When Dwight first arrived at Weeb Ewbank Hall, he was pegged to add depth to the wide receiving corps in addition to becoming the team's primary punt return man. But with a thigh injury coming late in training camp, the veteran's ninth season in the NFL was delayed until the third week when he returned two punts and caught one pass for five yards at Buffalo.
Dwight had a consistent month of October before churning out his best game of the season in a November date with the Bears. In addition to punt returns of 11 and 16 yards, he finished the day second in team receiving yards with 40 and even added an extra 28 rushing yards on a perfectly crafted reverse just three plays into the game.
"He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He would be a tough matchup on most linebackers," said Mangini. "He's tough. You line him up at safety and he'll fight you. That's what Tim does."
Dwight's lingering injury finally forced him onto the injured reserve list in early December, ending his first season in New York. Even if his season was technically over, not all was lost.
"You compete, you always want to just lay it out there and see what happens," said Dwight. "It's fun to surprise yourself every once in a while for doing something good. I've always been like that."