Chansi Stuckey during a game vs. FSU
The New York Jets experienced somewhat of a youth movement last season, but WR Chansi Stuckey wasn't part of it. While Eric Mangini moved plenty of baby faces into his lineup, Stuckey observed on Sundays throughout his rookie campaign.
"They were tough. You'd see some of the young guys out there playing like Darrelle [Revis] and Dave [Harris] and [Mike] DeVito — all those young guys playing," said Stuckey in a recent phone interview with newyorkjets.com. "You wonder what would have happened if I was able to play. You can't really dwell on the 'what if,' though. It's a new season and I have to try to find me a roster spot."
Last April, the Green & White selected Stuckey in the seventh round out of Clemson. The quick-footed 6'0", 196-pounder instantly became a spring and summer hit at Weeb Ewbank Hall. He displayed a knack for making plays and quickly earned the praise of his head coach in training camp.
"What I like about Chansi is he's got very good short-area quickness, and that's what we liked in college and that's what we're seeing here," Mangini said of the fellow donning jersey number 83.
Stuckey, who became the first player at Clemson since the Forties to score a TD via pass, rush, punt return and reception, led the Jets in the preseason with 11 catches and also had five punt returns for 76 yards. He earned a spot on the roster and appeared poised to contribute immediately.
"I didn't really have any expectations," he said. "I had confidence in myself. I just wanted to go in and see how I measured up to all the other guys. You have the same feelings anytime you go into something new."
But then just days before the Jets entertained the Patriots to kick off the regular season, Stuckey suffered a right foot injury during practice. It was the same foot he broke his senior year with the Tigers but the two mishaps were completely unrelated.
The Jets placed Stuckey on injured reserve on Sept. 12. But his season was far from a waste.
"I learned how to prepare for the game mentally, just as far as breaking down film, looking at players, seeing what they do and how they have tendencies on first, second and third downs," he said. "It's just good to see the type of defenses and the different players around the league that we got to watch on film every week."
Instead of working the slot between Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, he was studying their professional habits in the meeting room.
"Once they come to work, they come to work," he said. "In the film room, they're serious and they try to get better at everything. They do a great job of translating things from the classroom out to the practice field."
When the season ended in January, a recovered Stuckey stuck here in Hempstead and worked out daily under strength coach Sal Alosi.
"I just felt like I had a year off and I needed to be in the weight room working to show my dedication that I want to be part of the program," he said.
On Wednesday, Stuckey visited fourth- and fifth-graders at Northfield Community Elementary School in southern New Jersey as part of the Jets' Eat Right, Move More program. He hasn't had time to sit still in his first professional off-season.
"I've been doing a lot of extra stuff on my own as far as film and doing different things in the bubble alone," he said. "I'm just trying to get better by working on the craft. As far as routes, there are little things that I have found in the film room that I'm trying to take out on the practice field and get comfortable with them."
When he puts the pads and helmet back on, Stuckey doesn't just want to get back to the level where he was. He's thinking about elevation after a grounded year.
"Ultimately I want to pick up where I left off but at a higher pace and better," he said. "I want to take what I've done and what I've learned to another level. I don't really want to look like a second-year player when I hit the field again."