After taking USC's Keyshawn Johnson No. 1 overall in the 1996 NFL Draft, the Jets went back to the wide receiver well and chose Alex Van Dyke with the first pick of the second round, 31st overall.
"I was really feeling blessed," Van Dyke said. "Very thankful. Appreciative, because it was a dream come true to be drafted. So that was my own thing, just being able to have the opportunity to play at the next level."
A two-time All-American at the University of Nevada, as a senior, Van Dyke broke two NCAA records: receiving yards (1,854) and receptions (129).
A unanimous choice for the 1995 Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, at Nevada for two seasons, he finished with 3,100 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns.
Still, was he a little surprised that the Jets selected him after choosing Johnson earlier?
"Not at all. That wasn't even a concern or a stat in my mind," Van Dyke said. "I was just thanking God for the opportunity. I didn't care where I got drafted. Where I got drafted, where I was, I was very grateful and thankful, and wanted to move forward into the next life that was going to begin for me."
The beginning of Van Dyke's career saw him sharing the wide receivers room with not only Johnson, but with veterans who would show him the ins and outs about life in the NFL.
"I had Jeff Graham, and one of my good friends is Webster Slaughter. There was quite a few of them. It was a good group of guys on the team. It was a great atmosphere. Good camaraderie. I had an exceptional time there. It was really good," Van Dyke said.
"My mentality was we're all here, we're all pros now. We're a team and just like any like any other team, we're trying to conger up a championship-winning ballclub."
New York's chances to do that improved the following season, when after struggling to a 1-15 record, then-future Hall of Famer Bill Parcells was hired as the new Head Coach/General Manager. His reputation from what he accomplished with the Giants preceded him, and things around the Green & White were hopeful.
"I knew that he was a winning coach," Van Dyke said. "It was new for me, going into my second year, and just waiting to see what Parcells and company was going to do for the team."
Parcells and company led the Jets to five wins in their first eight games, and a 9-7 record. Their first winning season in 10 years.
Van Dyke's moment to shine that season came during a December 7 home game against the Indianapolis Colts, when he caught touchdown passes of 17- and 18-yards from Neil O'Donnell. Unfortunately, the Jets came up short in front of the Giants Stadium faithful, 22-14.
"I had one of my best games in my career and it was just taking advantage of opportunities," Van Dyke said. "I'm a guy who wants to perform, who wants to partake, who wants to do good. That's where I'm at. I'm a Jet, I'm a professional football player, a wide receiver. I wanted to be what I've always wanted to be as a person playing professional football, which is be great at what I do."
With the Jets for three of his five seasons in the NFL – Van Dyke spent the 1999 and 2000 seasons as a Philadelphia Eagle – what's among the fondest memories from his time in New York?
"The year (1998) we went to the AFC Championship Game, just that whole entire year," Van Dyke said. "Parcells and company were there changing over the whole dynamic of the team. Coming in my rookie year, it was just totally different from Rich Kotite to Parcells, and then just being able to adapt to his ways and how he just changed the whole culture of our ballclub. Everybody bought in because we're professionals, we're good athletes. You just needed that one piece to help bring it all together."
Following football, he opened an athletic facility in 2004, Alex Van Dyke's Going Vertical, in his hometown of Sacramento, California.
"I've always liked speed. I'm fast and I wanted to do something with speed. And so I prayed and asked God to give me something that was better than NFL, and he did," Van Dyke said with a laugh. "He gave me a place where I can create my own atmosphere and teach people the tools on what it's going to be for the next level. Wherever they may go, no matter what sport they play.
"It's a way for me to still be around sports because I realized it's my purpose, it's my ministry. It's just giving back in a way to the community that I was raised in and helping them understand what it's going to take to get to the next level
"I'm an athletic and cardio enhancement trainer. I work on all facets of building one's athleticism and their cardiovascular. So I'm like the foundation of the athlete, which is going to help improve their skillset, and whatever sport they play as well."
Working with clients age 8 and up, how does it feel when Van Dyke sees that he's making a difference in someone's life?
"It's a blessing. It feels great," he said. "When you are blessing somebody through the vehicle of exercise, it's an opportunity to know that you're serving your purpose through this vehicle. And just to have people come in one way and leave differently another way because of the seed that has been planted in them through what you've been given to do to give back, it's a great feeling."
Van Dyke and his wife, Renee, who were high school sweethearts, have been together 33 years. They have four children: Xela, Alex Jr., Alexis, and Alexandria; and two grandchildren.