Marcus Dowtin will forever classify Oct. 17, 2012, as the day his childhood dream came true.
After going undrafted out of North Alabama in April, Dowtin had been a member of the Jets' roster through training camp and then a member of their practice squad up until this morning, when he was signed to their active roster.
"My initial reaction was just excited and thankful," the rookie linebacker said. "I mean, not everybody gets this opportunity. So many people I know back home are on the streets and doing stuff they're not supposed to do or not even getting an opportunity like this. I'm definitely just happy and blessed and glad I got the shot."
A spot opened on the active roster when the Jets announced they had waived fullback John Conner, who had been dealing with a hamstring injury in recent weeks.
As soon as Dowtin was informed of the news, he called his mother, Lawanna.
"She was very excited," Dowtin said. "She took a deep breath and it kind of took the stress off her back, helping get me this far. It's kind of rewarding to her as well."
The 6"2', 230-pounder made the most of his time on the practice squad. While being listed on the Jets' roster at LB, Dowtin said he played a variety of positions with the scout teams. Besides linebacker, he saw time at running back, receiver and cover safety.
"It was kind of a blessing in disguise," he said, "showing the coaches what I really could do, instead of just focusing in on just one position, linebacker, and trying to get that position right. I was able to fine-tune and sharpen up some of my skills in other areas. So it was a great experience."
While playing multiple positions sounds challenging in any sport, it wasn't for Dowtin.
"Versatility is definitely one of my biggest traits, but not everybody knows how versatile I am," No. 44 said.
Along with linebacker, he played tailback during his time attending Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy for high school.
"I got a God-given talent, a lot of stuff that can't be coached," he said. "As far as what position I like better, I just like playing football. I don't care where you put me at. I'd rather play more positions. As much as I can contribute to the team, and be out there, and try to win a Super Bowl, I don't care what I got to do. I'll snap the ball. I'll hold it, whatever. I don't care. I just want to win."
Dowtin feels grateful to have such a strong group of veterans inside the Jets locker room. He lists David Harris, Bryan Thomas, Bart Scott and Yeremiah Bell as the teammates he's received the most wisdom from.
"I work pretty hard," Dowtin said, "so I'm definitely thankful that they even show me attention and give me some pointers and stuff."
Not only have his teammates been positive influences on him, but so has his head coach, Rex Ryan. He said what he loves most about Ryan is that he's a player's coach who pushes his players to the best of their ability.
"I dreamed to have a coach like Rex," Dowtin said. "To have a coach like him and be on a team like this, I can't help but give it 110 percent and give it all I got."
Sunday the Jets will take on their AFC East rivals, the New England Patriots, in Foxboro. And Dowtin will be the first to tell you it's a moment he's been anticipating for some time now.
"To be all honest with you," he said, "I believe I'm the spark, even if it's on the sidelines, even if it's on one freaking play in the game. I feel like I can get everybody excited, pumped up and ready to play. That's going to be my role. If I get a chance, I'm going to do what I do."
In the NFL, rivalry games are the ones most players thrive off of. Even though New England presents the top offense in the league, the latest member of the Green & White active roster isn't intimidated.
"I love the rivalry games," Dowtin said. "It actually kind of brings you back to your college days and you get kind of excited, with a chip on your shoulder. So I like the idea of the rivalry. I just feel like if we do what we're supposed to do, there should be smiles on everybody's faces."
Whether or not the Jets display smiles Sunday night, Dowtin surely deserved to smile today.
"I won't forget this day," he said. "It felt like a big weight coming off my back. There's definitely more improvement to make and more things to look forward to, but this is one step to being where I want to be."