Henry Ellard was a promising high school athlete from Fresno, Calif., who had no intentions of leaving his hometown. A chance meeting with a young Mike Martz would prove to influence not only his playing career but also his coaching career, which got its latest entry when he joined Rex Ryan's Jets staff.
"He recruited me out of high school to Fresno State," Ellard said. "He was an assistant coach at Fresno State. That's how I know Mike Martz."
Their paths crossed again in 1992 when Martz arrived as an offensive assistant with the Los Angeles Rams, Ellard's team at the time.
"Then I left after the '93 season in L.A. and went to the Redskins in '94," said Ellard. "And sure enough, in '95 or '96 he came to Washington as a quarterback coach. So we crossed paths again, and that's kind of how our history goes."
During the 1998 season, Ellard's 17th and last as an accomplished NFL wideout, his teammates began urging him to consider coaching. Ellard didn't think he'd like it and was adamantly against the idea.
"After I retired, I took a year off to spend time with the family," he said. "But after probably about five or four months I started to get antsy. You can only play so much golf.
"My wife was a Realtor and I was going to get into being a broker to help her out with that, but it didn't satisfy me. I wasn't happy with it."
Ellard started coaching at his alma mater and quickly fell in love with the job. And it wasn't long before he and Martz would cross paths again.
"He knew I was into coaching at Fresno Sate," said Ellard. "He said, 'I heard you're into coaching. I'd like you to come out here for a year, to St. Louis and see what you think about it.'
"And that's kind of how it all started for me."
After spending eight seasons with the Rams coaching the likes of Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Ricky Proehl and Az-Zahir Hakim, Ellard joins the Jets as their wide receivers coach. He had some scouting reports about the players he's now coaching.
"I'll tell you what, there's some talent," Ellard said of the Jets' receivers. "Starting with Coles, he's an older guy. The thing about him is, he reminds me of Torry Holt. He has great hands. He can still run. He can make plays.
"And it's nice when you've got a veteran guy that's been there for these young guys to learn from, because they watch what he does and how he does it.
"Jerricho Cotchery is just a playmaker. He's amazing. He's not the fastest guy in the world, but he finds ways to get the ball into his hands and he makes plays. He breaks tackles. He's strong. He's a smart player and has done things well.
"He'll continue to get better. He's still a young pup to me, but the more he plays, the more situations he's in, the better he's going to become.
"You've got Brad Smith, who's a versatile kind of guy, still young as a receiver and trying to learn the position as a route runner. I look forward to getting my hands on him this spring to teach him how to run routes, to get him to that next level where he's comfortable knowing and seeing things that he needs to see, and knowing how to move a guy.
"With Chansi Stuckey, I remember him coming out of Clemson. Great hands, great toughness and he's a great inside receiver. Watching him on tape, he's done a great job. He's getting a feel for the game.
Ellard considers himself a technician and prides himself on helping receivers control their speed and create separation.
"Another young kid I really liked when I watched him on tape is David Clowney," he said. "The ability that I see in him is exciting, because of the fact that he can stretch the field. That's something that we haven't had, I guess, from what I understand, in a little while."
As a player, Ellard was most influenced by former Jimmy Raye, who just left as Jets running backs coach to become San Francisco's new offensive coordinator.
"He was my receivers coach when I was drafted to the Rams and kind of got me started off on how to read coverages and route running, and all the rest of that," he said. "He really helped me to focus on what I needed to do as a player and as a receiver to get better."
Ellard never made it to a Super Bowl as a player and hasn't won one as a coach, but he sees plenty of potential in the Jets and is eager to begin preparation for the 2009 season.
"I'm excited about this off-season, OTAs and minicamps," he said, "to get a chance to work with them."