Healthy Dyson Finds Renewal in New York
A winning recipe for a cornerback in the National Football League requires two main ingredients: athleticism and confidence. But add a little good fortune and then you have the makings of an excellent concoction.
Such is the case for one of the latest Jets to patrol the secondary. Andre Dyson came to New York following a year in Seattle, where he was a contributor for the NFC Champion Seahawks. The six-year veteran was picked up by the Jets in March, a month after Seattle released Dyson following an injury-plagued season.
"I had a lot of stupid injuries last year and Seattle didn't pick up my option. It was more of a contract thing," said the Utah native. "No hard feelings against Seattle. I would have done the same thing if I were them because if you can't get on the field, then there's no sense in being on the team. It didn't work out there and hopefully it will work out here."
The Jets pursued Dyson in free agency and they landed a skilled vet who has made 66 starts as a pro. This was the second time the Jets had expressed interest in Dyson.
"These guys wanted me. I met the coaches last year as a free agent in '05 and again in March, so they wanted me two years in a row," Dyson said. "It always feels good to be wanted; that's the biggest key."
Despite suffering nagging injuries in Seattle, Dyson has a healthy track record. In fact, he started ten games for the 'Hawks despite the physical setbacks, and he had started 48 consecutive games in Tennessee prior to that. Dyson played an important role for a resurgent Seattle defense that allowed just 24 touchdowns, but he played through pain much of the time.
"I didn't play much last year," said the 5'10" corner. "I pulled my hamstring, had a high ankle sprain, and then I strained my quad in the playoffs. It just kept getting worse and worse. I actually didn't practice the whole Super Bowl week but came out anyways and gave my all for it."
The NFL is known for its revolving doors and Dyson is a proven commodity, so luck wasn't involved when this free agent DB was coveted after a shortened season. But many believe Dyson's mere existence is something of a miracle.
On June 25, 1979, Dyson's mother Susan gave birth to Andre, who weighed in at roughly one pound – well below the healthy average. With the lack of advanced technology in the late 1970's, premature babies didn't have high survival rates like they do today. Due to his survival, Dyson has been often referred to as a "Miracle Baby" for most of his life, but it's something that he doesn't necessarily agree with.
"My mom called me her little miracle, but to me it's no big deal. The media hypes it up," said Dyson, whose brother Kevin played in the NFL from 1998-2003. "I did a lot of stuff in the community with it though. Especially last year with Seattle, I would go to hospitals and just help out and talk to the parents of premature kids to prove to them that their kids can grow up and live normal lives. I get a lot of letters thanking me for my inspiration. It feels good and that aspect I enjoy. My motto is 'don't quit' and that's just how I live."
Confidence, on the other hand, is something that simply comes with the territory of playing cornerback at the professional level. Without it, Dyson wouldn't be in New York and training for yet another campaign.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't have confidence. I bet you every corner out here thinks they can cover anyone in the league," Dyson said. "That's the key - you just have to have confidence. If you don't have confidence playing corner, you might as well go play somewhere else. You are going to get beat and you're going to give up big plays. The good ones bounce back and make more plays than they give up that last."
Dyson has 17 career interceptions and he picked up a career-high six with the Titans in 2004. He cites an experienced 11-year veteran, who now happens to be a neighbor in the locker room, as one of his biggest inspirations when first entering the league.
"I first met Ray (Mickens), but I have watched him for years and heard a lot about him," Dyson says. "He's one of those guys when I was coming up who you could look at and say, 'if he could do it, I could do it' because I was considered a small corner like him."
Now with his third team in three years, Dyson hopes to find comfort here in New York while helping build a relatively green secondary.
"You can learn from everybody in this league - rookies, coaches, or a veteran - just as long as you can take that stuff and involve it into your own game is what's key," he says. "Anything I can do to make myself better, I take."