Tyler Conklin is really pleased to be here. "I couldn't be more excited to be a Jet," the veteran tight end said after climbing aboard as an unrestricted free agent. And "I'm pumped up about it." And "Green is my favorite color. I'm not just saying that. It is my favorite color."
Now players have been known to lay it on thick as a member of a new team. Some mean it, some don't.
But Conklin mentioned a whole planeload of talking points about making the move from the Land of 10,000 Lakes to the Big Apple and the Garden State. "There's just so many reasons why I'm excited about this," he said, and then went down the list with Eric Allen of newyorkjets.com on an upcoming Official Jets Podcast.
One is the Jets' West Coast-style scheme. "The offense, I'm very familiar with it," he said. "We ran this the past three years in Minnesota."
Next is the opportunity to work with second-year QB Zach Wilson:
"I really liked him coming out of BYU," Conklin said. "Obviously he has the arm talent. He's mobile, which I think is huge in today's game, to be able to extend plays and get out of the pocket. That's the beauty of tight end, too. When you've got a quarterback that mobile, a normal stick route can turn into a 40-yard pass down the field. I've also heard just amazing things about him as a person. I'm just excited to try to do whatever I can to help him grow and be whatever he needs me to be on the football field."
And the suddenly new top-end tight end tandem with fellow UFA signee C.J. Uzomah pumps him up, too. Consider that Conklin's 61 receptions, 593 yards and three touchdowns with the Vikes last year and Uzomah's 49-493-5 are all career bests for those two studs and that those numbers combined equal an exceptional season of TE production: 110 catches, 1,086 yards and eight TDs.
The Jets have never gotten more than 90 receptions out of the position in a season, the last time their TEs combined for 1,100-plus yards was 1975, and the last time they had nine-plus TDs from their tights was '93.
"They assured me this was part of the plan from the get-go, 'We needed two good tight ends and you two were at the top of our list,' " Conklin said. "I've heard only great things about C.J. I was watching film on him and he's a great player, but I've just heard people rave about him as a person. I just think we're going to mesh really well on the field and really well off the field, too."
Then while he spent his first four NFL seasons in Minnesota, he's a Michigander born and bred, having grown up in Chesterfield, MI and gone to college first at Division II Northwood on a basketball scholarship before transferring midway through his freshman year to FBS school Central Michigan. Oh, yeah, Robert Saleh, his new head coach, and Mike LaFleur, his new offensive coordinator, hail from the same neck of the woods.
"Coach LaFleur being from Mount Pleasant and I went to Central Michigan, which is in Mount Pleasant — that's about as close as you can get," he said. "And Coach Saleh being from Dearborn, that's probably 40 minutes from where I grew up."
See the best images of the former Viking and Jets free agency addition.
But getting down to pigskin basics, Conklin's fired up most about the opportunity to "turn it up a notch" and continue his upward pro trajectory. It's all a part of book that follows the chapter "Tyler Conklin: The Early Years."
"I've been the underdog my whole life," he said. "When I was a walk-on at Central Michigan, I had to wait my turn there. I was the last tight end of eight tight ends. Then I finally get my chance, I play well — and I break my foot. Then when I get drafted in the fifth round, I'm behind Kyle Rudolph and then they drafted Eric Smith in the second round the next year.
"It's just kind of me constantly waiting my turn. I always knew what I could do and at times it was frustrating. But what I always came back to was just putting my head down and working. At the end of the day, everything happens for a reason. That's how I feel about ending up here as a New York Jet."