This is the first in a series of features on the Jets' practice squad players that will appear every week newyorkjets.com.
When Kris Jenkins was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 20, officially ending his season, defensive tackle Antonio Garay was signed to the practice squad. Now the Rahway, N.J., native's locker is right next to Big Jenks, and Garay is taking full advantage of it.
"When he's in here, I've been just picking his mind," the 6'3", 303-pounder told newyorkjets.com. "I've talked to him many times, and he's helped me out. I know everyone is anxious and wishes him a speedy recovery and hopes he'll get back soon."
The rest of the team has greeted Garay with open arms.
"I came in midseason and guys have welcomed me," Garay said. "Guys are picking me up just to bring me up to speed with where everyone's at. When you have a group of guys like that, you're pretty much destined for greatness."
The former Boston College Eagle entered the NFL as a sixth-round selection by Cleveland in the 2003 draft (195th overall). He played in four games in two seasons with the Browns before being waived on Dec. 13, 2004.
"We weren't really good the two years I was there. We were subpar at best," he said. "I know the feeling of what losing is like and no one wants to experience that. If you spend your whole career losing, it's a long, dreaded career."
He left Cleveland, awaiting the best-fit situation, four months before Braylon Edwards came to the Dawg Pound in the 2005 NFL Draft.
"Everything he was going through through the years, I definitely understand it," said Garay. "He's definitely happier here. You can see it in him with his play on the field and his play off the field."
The Bears signed Garay to their practice squad for the 2005 season, then to their active roster for 2006 and 2007. Garay recorded eight tackles in 10 games and was on the 2006 Bears team that advanced to Super Bowl XLI.
"I got a taste of Chicago for three seasons, went to the Super Bowl, went to the playoffs two out of the three seasons. You get hungry and that's what you want, that's what you expect out of yourself, that's what you expect of the organization, the team that you're on," he said. "That's where pretty much everyone's mindset is here.
"Every day I see [Larry] Izzo, he has a couple rings. A lot of guys in here, they don't have those rings. They want those rings."
Before joining the Green & White, Garay spent his time "working out each and every day" and helping out with the kids in his community. He was a volunteer coach and continues to be a big supporter of his former high school team in Rahway, where he was a PrepStar All-American football player and a state- and national-champion heavyweight wrestler.
Interestingly, if Rahway High School wins its last two games, the Indians will tie the Summit Hilltoppers for the Mid-State 39 Mountain Division championship. Jets head coach Rex Ryan's son plays football at Summit.
"I thought that was pretty funny when I heard that," Garay said. "I have a lot of different ties here. I was at BC when D-Wood [Damien Woody] was at BC. I was in Chicago with Thomas [Jones]. There are a number of guys that I played with that are on the team that I've known over the years. It's great to be here."
Being on the winning and losing end of things, Garay likes what he sees and has already bought into the philosophy surrounding Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
"I think that this team, with the camaraderie and with the coaching staff to the owner to the players, everyone mentality-wise is on the same wavelength," he said. "Everyone knows what they want and expect from themselves.
"Around here the biggest thing is playing like a Jet," he said. "My mentality is to be a Jet just as good as everyone else. Rex brings that swagger to the team. That's why he was brought to New York. Everyone around here kind of walks around with that swagger. Everyone's confident every week. That's how you have to be around here."