Picture a small, proud town where everybody knows everybody and folks gather to talk about the favorite sons who've left the neighborhood but have never really left and what they all may be up to next.
As far as the NFL is concerned, there are lots of those towns. One of them is Aliquippa, Pa.
"We talked about this situation all the time at home," Ty Law said of being reunited with his hometown protégé, Darrelle Revis, as cornerbacks on the Jets last week. "We'd get the family together at my mom's house, everybody'd come over in your yard and have big barbecues, and people would say, 'Imagine you and Darrelle playing on the same team.'
"You would never think it's going to happen, but it's here."
"After the game," Revis recalled about the warm moments after the cool 34-31 overtime win over the Patriots, "we had a couple of people from Aliquippa at the game and we talked to them. One of them, his name is 'Book' — he's a cousin of one of my cousins, one of Ty's best friends. They were excited as well to see two guys from the same hometown playing out there."
The NFL being a clearinghouse for such sudden coincidences and destinies, Law, the wily old vet, and Revis, the competitive "youngster," working side by side for the first time isn't unique.
"You never know," Revis said. "If Brett Favre comes walking in here one day, anybody can."
But it's a great story just the same. By head coach Eric Mangini's count, the two played together 57 of the Patriots' 79 plays, since that's how many Law was in on while Revis played the whole game, usually keeping tabs on Wes Welker in the slot. That's a full NFL game's worth of reps.
What could possibly top that? Perhaps the two old "Quips" starting opposite each other on the Jets' corners in a game this season.
Law was asked if he might even start as soon as Sunday's game at Tennessee.
"There's a pretty good chance," he said with a sly smile. "Whatever the case is, whatever my role is, I'm going to do the best I can."
"He's Going to Be the Next One"
Law, who came in from the cold to join the Jets for their abbreviated week of work before Thursday's game in Foxboro, Mass., went through his first full practice in 11 months or so on Wednesday and admitted afterward he spent some time in the cold tub and some more time in the hot tub.
"I'm still trying to recover a little bit. It's taking a little bit longer, getting thrown out there for that many plays," he said. "But I feel pretty good. I'm still trying to catch up. I'm learning this system and everything on the fly as far as the terminology and things like that."
But despite the mental and physical stress the 34-year-old must be feeling this week, the gift of gab learned in those Aliquippa back yards and bleacher seats shows no sign of fatigue. That's especially apparent when Law is asked about the 23-year-old Revis, now no longer cities but rather lockers away.
"The first time I saw him play? When he was probably like 9, when he was in 'Little Quips'," Law remembered. "I grew up in his uncle's era, Sean Gilbert, so at that time everybody was saying about Darrelle, 'He's going to be the next one. He's going to be the next one.' But hell, everybody's going to be the next one when you're running for five or six TDs in a Pop Warner game.
"But you saw he had amazing talent. Then as he got up to junior high and high school, he still kept setting himself apart from the rest of the guys. He went to Pitt and you knew he was 'three-and-out.' I was three-and-out, Sean was three-and-out. That was the goal going into it: 'I'm going to start as a freshman and by my junior year, it's time to go.' "
"Go" as in the NFL Draft. Law was taken 23rd overall in the 1995 draft by the Patriots and went on to play in four Super Bowls and five Pro Bowls and grab 52 interceptions — including a career-high 10 in 2005 in his first Jets tenure. Revis went 14th in the 2007 draft and is just out on his numbers and awards trail.
The New Standard on the Corner
Law is biased but he also knows what he's talking about. Asked what he saw when he looked at Revis those 20 lockers to his right, he didn't flinch.
"I see myself 12 years ago. It's like a spitting image," he said. "Just the way he approaches the game, the confidence, the swagger that he has. That's something no matter how you try, you can't teach. Darrelle definitely has that. He doesn't let anything affect him.
"It's going to be a challenge, but to his credit, people are fearing him already," Law continued. "One thing that Coach Parcells told me when I was young was, 'Everybody in this game is scared of you. For what reason I don't know.' I took that as a compliment. And that's how Darrelle is. People are starting to fear him."
Then Law invoked the exclusive neighborhood of elite cornerbacks in recent NFL history.
"Darrelle's going to be the standard," he said. "He's going to be the knew Ty Law, Champ Bailey, Deion Sanders. You know how you go through those eras of guys being 'the guy'? He has the ability to surpass us because he doesn't have any glaring weakness whatsoever."
Whew. And how does Revis react to such praise from one of his mentors? Also without flinching.
"For a guy who's been to a number of Pro Bowls, I thank him for saying that," Revis said. "I'm trying to do the best I can, work hard and try to be the best. He's taught me a lot, too. Learning from a guy that's been to Super Bowl championships and is getting a whole bunch of interceptions, I still look up to him. I just thank him that he respects my game as well."
Then after reciting Law's past triumphs, Revis repays the compliments by saying that based on the Patriots game, the old guy can still bring it.
"He can still play. He came in here in shape and ready to go," Revis said. "He's still trying to learn the schemes and stuff that we do, but he's a smart player. We can do a lot of things with him and he can help us as well."
If the two wind up starting together on the Jets' corners down the stretch, that will give Aliquippa something more to talk about. But one thing you probably wouldn't hear the townfolk say over the chicken and ribs at Mrs. Law's house is "We never thought it would happen."