If Vernon Gholston can handle what was thrown at him his first day as a Jet, then four West Coast trips and a short week before a big showdown against his new rival the Patriots in his NFL rookie season will be a piece of cake.
"There were no curveballs today," Gholston said of all the attention Saturday evening as he headed to his last official event as the Jets' newest first-round draft choice, their draft day party at Dave & Buster's in Times Square. "Yeah, it's a high-volume level. I'm accustomed to it. I know it's something necessary. Obviously you have passionate fans that want to know what's going on within the Jets organization, and I wouldn't have it any other way."
These numbers aren't official but they're in the ballpark. Immediately after being tabbed as the sixth pick overall in the 2008 Draft, Gholston went on a whirlwind of one-on-one or one-on-many interviews that included chats with eight TV stations (including Big Ten Network and a Japanese crew), eight radio stations, four or five dot.coms, a news conference in the media interview room at Radio City Music Hall, and a conference call with Jets beat reporters back at the Hofstra University training complex.
And right before the D&B bash (which he stayed at for about five minutes, to the tune of green-and-white-clad fans chanting their new chant, "VER-non GHOL-ston!) came a walk across the street from Radio City to SportsNet New York's studios for an eight-minute session with Brian Custer, who hails from Ohio, and former Jets Greg Buttle and Ray Lucas.
Two responses from the SNY session stand out. To Buttle's observation that he seems to share a lot of the traits that fall under the category of head coach Eric Mangini's "core Jets values," Gholston replied about being drafted by the Jets:
"I think it was a match well-made."
And when Lucas observed that no lesser light than Bill Parcells advised him about versatility as a pro player, Gholston responded:
"That's my model, too. The more you can do, the better."
Gholston was asked in that long/short SUV ride some 10 New York City blocks from Radio City to Times Square what it said specifically that these Jets of Mangini and general manager Mike Tannenbaum valued in Ohio State products such as 2006 first-round center Nick Mangold, kicker Mike Nugent and 2006 third-round pick Anthony Schlegel.
"Playing here in New York, you have high expectations," Gholston said softly. "It's that same way playing for Ohio State. Coach [Jim] Tressel is a tremendous teacher and he teaches us to be good people. That's one of the things the Jets are looking for."
Revis Sees "Humble Guy"
Here are a few other observations that can be made about the Jets' newest No. 1:
* For being such a high-impact player for the Buckeyes, Gholston is softspoken. While Buttle and Lucas can be heard plainly at a distance from the set, the SNY crew had to "pot up" the Detroit native's responses.
"Vernon's a humble guy," Darrelle Revis, the second-year cornerback who was last year's No. 1 pick, said at the draft party. "Then once he gets on the field, you know he's going to wreck havoc or we wouldn't have picked him in the first round."
* He's a religious young man who mentioned several times at his Radio City news conference about how "blessed" he was.
"That goes back to those core values and who you are as a person," he said. "I know I wouldn't be in this position today if it wasn't for God, and I just thank Him for blessing me with the talent. I just work as hard as I can and use it."
* Among the many impressive physical attributes that the 6'4", 258-pounder brings to the table are his hands. They're huge, well-veined, and while the right mitt presents a large, soft handshake, the two together have been known to latch onto a few quarterbacks and running backs and bring them abruptly to earth.
"They measured them at the combine. I think I was between a 10[-inch] and a 10 1/8," he said. "i think they're big enough to get the job done."
* He's also about the people that matter most. Traveling with him on this special day was a group of about 15 — his mom, younger brother, some cousins and aunts, and his defensive coordinator from his days at Detroit Cass Tech, Charleston Fobbs. It sounded, someone said, like a nice entourage.
"I wouldn't call it an entourage," he said. "I'd just call it family."
* Gholston has a new family, Jets nation. He heard the fans roar their approval when his name was called as the Jets pick. Then as he and a group of Jets and NFL folks walked outside from Radio City to SNY, he got more encouragement from the fans along the short city walk. He couldn't stop to sign autographs (he's left-handed) until he got to the TV station, but he made sure to stop and press the flesh for someone who said, "How about a handshake, Vernon?"
"Anybody that supports me, I'm very appreciative towards. I do all I can to show that," he said. "Fans yelling 'Vernon Gholston,' talking about the Jets — we were linked together, so they wanted me here."
Linked to the Green & White
It's true that almost from the beginning of the draft process, the Jets and Gholston were an item. He told Custer how Jets owner Woody Johnson chatted him up at the combine workouts.
"At the beginning of the process, I was linked to the Jets, and it showed to be true," he said with that small, warm smile of his that fans will come to recognize. "So maybe we should cut out all the middle work and go with the first projections."
And while Gholston correctly answered all questions about how he may be used by the Jets ("I'll wait for the coaches to tell me what they want me to do"), he also is aware that he has the skill set that many 3-4 defenses crave — so much so that for a short while a week ago he was being rumored as a potential top pick of the draft for Parcells' new team, the Dolphins.
"All the 3-4 teams are looking for pass rushers and guys that can play outside," he said. "That's a tough position because it's a hybrid position where you have to rush the passer and drop [into coverage]. A lot of people can't necessarily do that. If you get your chance for a guy that can do that, you've got to take your shot with him."
That's what Johnson, Tannenbaum and Mangini did Saturday. So let the speculation begin about how the Jets' new No. 1 will be used (end, run stopper, pass rusher, coverage LB) and let the naysayers talk about how he took plays off in college and might be a workout warrior and the jury's still out. Gholston let it all roll off his back on his first day in the pros.
And his high school coach and extended-family member had a word of advice for the fans, the critics and the people of Jets nation.
"Everybody around here doesn't know yet what Vernon is going to be," Charleston Fobbs said. "But they will."