After playing eight seasons in Pittsburgh and four in Carolina, it was a couple of connections with the Steelers that helped wide receiver Dwight Stone land with the Jets.
"(Jets director of player personnel) Dick Haley was with the Steelers when I was with the Steelers," Stone said. "And (Jets wide receivers coach) Todd Blackledge, if I remember correctly, was a ball boy when I was with the Steelers. Talking to Mr. Haley and Todd, we thought it would be a pretty good fit as long as Coach (Bill) Parcells agreed with it."
He did, and Stone, who signed as a free agent in 1999, appreciated having the opportunity to experience a football rarity.
"Playing under Coach (Chuck) Noll and then going and being able to play under Coach Parcells was like playing for two icons in the NFL," Stone said. "He explained my role and I said, 'Coach, I have no problem with that. I've been around the league for a while. Whatever I can do in regards to helping the younger guys and also helping out the team with whatever you need.'"
What Parcells felt he needed was some veteran leadership among the wide receivers corps. Which is what he got in Stone.
"He said by my work ethic," Stone said, "as long as I've been around, he figured if Keyshawn (Johnson) and Wayne Chrebet sees that work ethic of an older guy, the younger guys will understand, hey, he's doing it, why can't we do it?"
Totaling 24 kickoff returns during his time with the Panthers, why couldn't Stone, at 35, contribute on special teams by fielding kicks? Well, he could. And he did.
Stone, who was faster than getting a dial tone, led the Jets with 28 kick returns, a 24.6-yard average, in his first season. And he did so again the following year with 25 returns and a 22.2 average.
"It was fun. Anytime that you can contribute for your team, put them in position to score is great. And to touch the ball here and there was great," Stone said. "I knew that whatever my role would be, I'd be happy for it because I was all about giving back to whatever it was. I'm not much of a stat guy, I'm more of a how do the guys see me and how do the coaches see me in the locker room guy."
Well respected in and out of the locker room, Stone was with the Jets for the final two of his 14 years in the NFL. What makes him most proud of his career?
"What I would say I'm proud of is what I think my mom instilled in me, to treat everybody the same and your blessings will go beyond what you can imagine," Stone said. "If you really put your mind to something, you put your time in, you work hard, and when you're looking at a person, you're seeing a person, you don't see a color, you don't see a male, you don't see a female, you try to be open to everybody."
Following his retirement from the game in 2001, Stone reflected on his past as he walked into his future.
"The military, that was my first, I guess, what I wanted to do after graduating out of high school. And the second thing was being a police officer," Stone said. "Being a police officer, growing up in a small town, I always saw how they gave back. They're there to help people, and I always wanted to be someone to help someone in a predicament that they don't see no way out. Guide them. Be an example around the community. And somehow, football got in the way and pushed the police work down the road a little bit."
Stone became an officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) Police Department, retiring after 14 years in 2015.
He and his wife, Jennie, make their home in Waxhaw, NC. They have three daughters: Ciara, who will be a senior this fall at East Carolina University; Cailin, who will be a sophomore at North Carolina State; and Celena, who will be a sophomore at Cuthbertson High School.
"With my girls all being in school, I'm doing more public speaking and explaining to people – here's a guy, his mom had seven kids in a small town down south, grew up in the projects, and I did that through people blessing me, coaches, people who showed me along the way. The hard things, but yet the good things, about hard work," Stone said.
"I volunteer at our high school and with the track team at the middle school. My youngest daughter always drove me crazy, 'Dad, help the young guys out. Show them how to work out.' And in the community, I do some things for the pregnancy center."
Stone continued. "I'm doing a lot of things. I leave myself free so I can help people out. I can relate to people who grew up poor from the projects. I can relate to people in law enforcement. I can relate to people who went to a military school. I can relate to people who played professional football.
"I guess it's like a stew or some kind of melting pot where I'm able to relate to a lot of people. I've never felt out of place no matter where I go or what the crowd is. I feel comfortable because I know who I am. And once people see who I am, we just take it from there."