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At Jets Rookie Minicamp, Staten Island's Patrick McSweeney Is Looking to Honor His Father, Who Died on 9/11

Decorated Firefighter Passed When Patrick Was 9 Months Old


"The job's not done."

That's what tight end Patrick McSweeney said at Jets rookie minicamp in the empty fieldhouse at the Atlantic Health Training Center on Friday, gazing in awe at the banners of the Ring of Honor members that drape the walls.

It's also what he thinks his father, Timothy, would say to him if he were alive. He died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks when Patrick was 9 months old.

"Unfortunately, I don't really have any memories of being with my father physically, but I feel like I know him just through the stories," said McSweeney, who grew up a Jets fan on Staten Island. "A lot of stories of just who he was and his character, even old photos and videos. Just growing up and being myself, a lot of people will say I do certain things like him or act like him or I even sound like him or look like him.

"I know that he's always with me and my family, so I feel like I have a great understanding for who he is. Even though I really don't have any memories from before he passed away, I feel I've met him and I feel like I've grown up with him."

Timothy McSweeney, a former Jets season ticket holder, joined the FDNY in 1987 and won six awards for heroism before he died at 37 years old. He was a member of Ladder 3. Patrick, which was his father's middle name, tries to honor his father through football by wearing a different uniform – both with McSweeney on their backs.

"Everyone gravitated towards him," said Patrick, whose favorite Jets include RB-KR Leon Washington, WR Santonio Holmes and C Nick Mangold. "He was always putting other people first. He was very selfless and something that I try to embody of his, it might sound cliché, but when he when he ran into that building, he was attempting to save innocent people. He really didn't care what those people looked like, what their race or religion was. He was just trying to save them. That's kind of what I always remember.

"It's important to treat everyone fairly, treat them with respect and that's how I've always tried to be."

It shouldn't be a surprise that the favorite moment of his college career was being named captain at The Citadel last season (after five seasons at Coastal Carolina). It's the same title his grandfather Dennis held in the FDNY; he was promoted to battalion chief before he retired. Like his father and grandfather, Patrick was rewarded for putting other people first.

"I felt like I always wanted to be a leader," he said. "When I got voted team captain, I just took a deep breath. I've always wanted to be a leader and I always acted like one, but it's tough to find the right balance. Like Kobe Bryant said: 'Leadership is lonely.' You have to be willing to upset some people in order to lead them in the right direction for the team. I was just happy to get that honor of team captain because it just feels like I'm doing something right."

Surrounded by friends and family throughout his childhood, Patrick's football career took him from Staten Island to Coastal Carolina in large part because of his uncle, Eddie O'Connor, who played college football at Fordham. Tried-and-true New Yorkers, McSweeney and O'Connor didn't wait for an opportunity -- they created one.

"I wasn't highly recruited," McSweeney said. "They didn't really find me, we kind of found them with the help of my stepdad as well, who took me down to a Coastal prospect camp when I was going into my senior year of high school. After my senior year of high school, I reached out to Coastal, sent them emails and they finally offered me a preferred walk on spot after my senior football season in high school. So I took the PWO and I was still the low man on the totem pole. I just kind of worked my way up."

McSweeney is the youngest of three. His brother Dennis is named after his grandfather and is following in his father's footsteps in the FDNY. His sister Maggie is a teacher. As gaping a hole Timothy left the McSweeney family in 2001, Patrick's mother Debra filled it with love and support.

"That's the only reason I'm here," said McSweeney of his mother, who remarried when Patrick was about 5 years old. "I need to just keep going because now that I've gotten a little bit of a glimpse of what it's like to be here, there's nowhere else I want to be."

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on the World Trade Center on a picturesque September morning, but millions have been deeply affected by the day that made time stand still. The McSweeney's are one of many who lost a sibling, parent and spouse. Jets head coach Robert Saleh, meanwhile, found clarity months after he anxiously awaited his brother David's call, who was on the 64th floor of the South Tower when the North Tower was struck at 8:46 a.m.

Twenty-two years later, Saleh's instinct led him to 1 Jets Drive where he's coaching McSweeney and 47 other tryout players this weekend. McSweeney's determination to climb the NFL ranks, much like his father did as a rookie in the FDNY nearly 40 years ago, is not a fire that can be put out. It's an eternal flame lit by the man he barely knew.

"[My mom] tells us that he would be proud of us and he is proud of us," he said. "He's watching over us right now. The fact that I'm here right now, he's probably jumping for joy. He's excited, but I have more work to do. And I have to keep going."

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