Wayne Chrebet felt strongly both ways this evening when he found out in the stands watching the first quarter of the Jets-Bears game that he is one of the new members of the New York Jets Ring of Honor.
"It's something I really wanted," Chrebet told me in between plays, well wishes and hugs from family, friends and fans out in the cool air at MetLife Stadium. "But to finally hear it and see it, I'm just kind of thrown back by it."
Chrebet, No. 80, captured his reaction to the revelation that he and late Jets owner Leon Hess are the two members of the Class of 2014, the 14th and 15th members who will be enshrined in the Ring, in one word: "Emotional."
And that's how Chrebet played the game — with an emotional, never-say-die attitude that lifted him from undrafted free agency status out of Hofstra University, the 10th man in the Jets' 10-man wideout training depth chart in 1995, to the little big man on the Jets through his last season of 2005, clearing one team receiving standard after another and winning the hearts of Jets Nation with every one of the 580 regular-season receptions he made.
"It's just great to be back in the stadium," said Chrebet, who played his home games next door in the old Meadowlands stadium venue. "And then to hear the reception from the fans ... I'm near tears."
Wayne thought he and his wife, Amy, were coming to the stadium for a nice, quiet night out to enjoy the Green & White in the stands.
"But I guess my wife knew for a month or so," he said. "I didn't know the boys were here. They just came up behind me. So just having them here, it's crazy."
Besides his sons, Luke, Cade and Griffin, also in the Green Room crowd were his parents and biggest fans, Wayne Sr. and Paulette. Among his former teammates who were in the stadium were the likes of fellow wideout Laveranues Coles, a few of his former QBs in Chad Pennington and Glenn Foley, and tight end Fred Baxter.
And also here in spirit was Hess, his boss for his first four years with the Jets.
"It's an honor to go in with Mr. Hess," Chrebet said. "He was such a great man. One story I always tell is that when we came back from Denver after that loss in the AFC Championship Game, we got back late, the season was over. And he stood by the front of the airplane and thanked everybody one by one and shook their hand for a great season.
80 To Be Inducted in Jets Ring of Honor on Dec 1
"I'll never forget that, what that meant to me and how I felt about him. I'm grateful and I'm honored."
The early portions of this game weren't going the Jets' way, but that was OK by Wayne Chrebet.
"I'm not here to sit still. I'm here to cheer. I'm a fan," he said. "Just being here on a Monday night kind of reminds me of the feel of playing in the night games and the energy, with the fireworks and the choppers going overhead before kickoff. It just feels right, you know?"
Yeah, Wayne, we know. Congratulations and thanks again for a job done well enough to be enshrined in the Ring of Honor.