Mark Sanchez might feel some heat this season, but the rookie Jets quarterback is never going to flinch from being thrown into the fire.
Growing up the son of an Orange Country (Calif.) Fire Department captain, Sanchez learned from his father invaluable lessons in courage and leadership. Ever the optimist, Nick Sanchez prides himself in helping people, whether through fighting fires or as a member of California's Urban Search and Rescue team.
Just last week, a week after Mark Sanchez was named by head coach Rex Ryan to be the Jets' starting quarterback for Sunday's season opener at Houston, he knew that his father might be sent out to fight raging wildfires in Southern California.
"I deal with this every year because in California this is not uncommon," Sanchez said on a recent appearance on "The Two-Minute Drive" radio show that aired on newyorkjets.com. "This is pretty normal this time of year. It gets hot, it gets windy and wildfires start. This is almost like my dad's season, if you can imagine that.
"It's weird because it seems like such a tough time but these guys are excited to go help. They're not excited that these fires are burning homes, but they're excited to help people, save lives and put an end to this stuff. He's had his preseason and now it's time to go."
Nick Sanchez, who's worked for the OCFD for 33 years, is a retired army sergeant. While he was a community college quarterback at East Los Angeles, his best work certainly has come off the field.
After the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed in 1995, Sanchez helped recover bodies in the ruins. Then when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans 10 years later, Sanchez moved down south and sported his USC cap (Mark was a freshman for Pete Carroll at that time) in bayou country.
"He takes a lot of pride in doing that because that can change the course of people's lives," Mark said. "When you find somebody, you bring them back to their family and you see the thank you letters and the flowers.
"It really touches you because they do a lot of great work — not just my dad but all the guys who are helping out. It's important to him and that's his gameday. When these tragic things happen, people need to respond and that's what he's all about, what his entire crew is all about."
At just 22 years old, the Jets' new quarterback is not in a life-or-death profession. But as an entertainer in the sports world, he will — like his father — be asked to lead his men while being one of the guys.
"If it's a tough situation, you are going to have to get on somebody. You have to raise your voice a little bit and yell at somebody — not in a negative way but to kind of get the best out of them," he said. "That's all we want from each other on this team is to play our best."
The rookie's early results were promising. Seeing action in all four Jets preseason games, Sanchez led 16 drives and the offense responded with five touchdowns and two field goals. He completed 64.9 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and only one interception.
The real tests begin this weekend in Houston.
Barring a call to duty, Nick Sanchez will be at Reliant Stadium on Sunday to see Mark take his first NFL regular-season snaps, then at the Meadowlands a week later watching his son competing in front of Jets Nation. And if he misses a game or two this season, it will be only to help the greater good.
"It's an exciting time for them," Mark said. "I go to bed thinking about it and wake up in the morning knowing he'll be just fine and he'll be back at some games very soon."