Chansi Stuckey during a game vs. FSU
Chansi Stuckey counts each day with the Jets as a blessing. He is a rookie who understands his place in the NFL caste system, doing whatever it takes to make a good impression on the coaching staff.
Two months ago, green and enthusiastic during a pleasant 70-degree day at minicamp, he said that meant studying the playbook like he would a college textbook.
Now, with the drudgery of August two-a-days in the hot 90-degree weather, the wide receiver's assignment has changed.
It's training camp, and what's most important now is his performance on the field.
"Coach Mangini and Coach Schottenheimer, they've given me opportunities and I'm just trying to make the best of them," said Stuckey. "I'm just trying to impress the coaches because everything's an evaluation."
So far, to the casual observer, Stuckey has been very impressive.
During Friday night's preseason opener against Atlanta, Stuckey jumped over Falcons cornerback Tony Franklin to catch a 13-yard fade from Kellen Clemens in the corner of the end zone. He landed hard in bounds, then wrestled the bobbling ball out Franklin's hands to secure the touchdown.
Sunday in training camp, Stuckey made another great play, reaching behind Rayshaun Kizer to haul in a 30-yard pass from Clemens, then cutting across the field to leave the Jets secondary in his wake.
Even with those outstanding catches and others, Stuckey maintains the attitude of someone who isn't taking anything for granted.
On the TD vs. the Falcons, he said: "Kellen gave me the opportunity to make a play and I got lucky. I was able to hold on to it. That's about the gist of it there. I jumped up, got lucky, and held on to it."
And on Sunday's play: "Once again, Kellen and the line did a great job. I got behind the guy, Kellen gave me a throw and I just adjusted to the ball the best I could and I was able to catch it."
Stuckey is clearly happy to be here, to have this opportunity. During his senior year at Clemson, he broke his foot during a non-contact drill at practice, just five games into the season. The Tigers were nationally ranked at 4-1, had one of the most explosive offenses in the country and were about to enter the meat of their ACC schedule.
Stuckey took less than three weeks to heal before returning for the remainder of the season. He would have it no other way.
"I had a goal of what I wanted to do and that's get to the NFL," said Stuckey when asked about his quick return.
Though the injury may have scared some NFL teams away, the Jets recognized the wide receiver's abilities and selected him in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. Stuckey is grateful for the opportunity, despite what he endured during his senior year at Clemson.
"Regardless of where you are in your career, you've just got to look forward.," he said. "Whatever has happened has happened. You got to look forward, try to get better every day, just keep trying to rise up."
After the team's first preseason game, Stuckey showed the wide-eyed enthusiasm he displayed in minicamp, when everything was new to him. This time, it was the playing in the Meadowlands that was the new experience.
His first impression?
"Windy," said a smiling Stuckey, "but I love the stadium, the way the crowd is. I know we have a good fan base but it was just a great feeling to be in an NFL stadium, especially the Meadowlands."
It's a feeling he may get used to very quickly.