As an undrafted free agent, you want to make all 32 teams that passed on you 7 times pay for not drafting you.
That’s what I did for 11 years.
I don’t think I was born to be a professional football player, but I worked at it. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, I was preparing for my first training camp since I was 5 years old.
Every break, every halftime, every chance I got, I was throwing the ball around with my dad — football, baseball, tennis ball, it didn’t matter. I was diving on my parents’ couches, neighbors’ lawns, wherever.
During the predraft process, I worked out with a couple teams like the Saints and Bengals, and even the CFL. Nobody had come out of Hofstra in 20 or 30 years, but both teams said they might take me in the sixth or seventh round.
I watched the first day of the draft as a fan at a bar with my parents (it was two days back then). The next day, I wasn’t expecting anything, but I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t hopeful. My girlfriend kept calling me and asking if anything had happened. I was like, “Listen, get off the phone! I’m waiting for a call!”
In the sixth round, I think one of those teams drafted a guy that was coming off a knee injury. It was a little depressing, so I went outside. A little while later, my mom shouted that John Griffin was on the phone. I thought maybe she got the name wrong because I was talking to a John Garrett from the Bengals.
Turns out Griffin was checking out a couple guys from New Hampshire at homecoming my senior year. It was a total surprise to hear from the Jets, but it worked out perfectly. I went right from my dorm to the workout, Todd Haley threw me like 100 passes, I didn’t drop one.
Then came a choice: Jets, Saints or Bengals. But it was an easy decision — my best chance of making the team was with the Jets, and they gave me $1,500.
The next day became a very well-documented story.
With a backpack on and my hat low, I walked from my dorm across campus to practice. I was stopped at the guard booth by Hofstra security officer Harry Fisher, who simply said, “No autographs.”
I explained who I was and said, “Dude, I have practice to go to. I’m going to be late,” but he still didn’t believe I was a player.
I was looking around like what am I supposed to do here? I can’t tell Harry to call someone because I didn’t know anybody. Eventually, someone waved me in.
Eleven years later, I retired a Jet.
To see my name now in the Ring of Honor up there with guys like Joe Namath, Don Maynard, Joe Klecko, it’s surreal. Being a part of the Green & White immortals means everything to me because it validated my career and gave me a chance to say goodbye because I basically walked off the field with injury.
Something like that, my career, isn’t supposed to happen. But I worked for it, I put everything I had into it. Sure, it might’ve been easier to come into the league now, but I like the path I took.
When I was coming out of college 25 years ago, slot receivers didn’t exist. Now, I’m “the Godfather,” according to Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman.
I went out to dinner with those two a couple years ago and they told me that’s what they call me, the Godfather. I’ve been called a lot of things throughout my career — Chevette, Chrebeck, Q-Bert— but never the Godfather. I think it’s hilarious. Awesome but hilarious.
To all the undrafted free agents this year and years to come: Sometimes it’s better to go undrafted. You get to decide what team gives you the best chance to succeed. You may only get one chance during training camp. Keep your head low, do the dirty work, learn the playbook.
Plus, it makes for a better story.