Where Are They Now

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Where Are They Now: Nick DeFelice

2019-Cuts-13

Once a Jet, always a Jet. However, for offensive tackle Nick DeFelice, becoming a Jet was an adventure in itself.

Much like baseball is now, in the 1960s, professional football had a farm system. Men like DeFelice would play in the minor leagues for little pay in hopes of making it big by signing with a team in either the American or National Football League.

After graduating from Southern Connecticut State University in 1961, DeFelice played in the Atlantic Football Conference for the Ansonia Knights and Hartford Charter Oaks before he caught the attention of the Jets in 1965.

"It was an opportunity for us to get into the big leagues because those were farm teams for all the major teams," DeFelice said. "We went down and played against the Jersey Jets and I kicked the (um, stuffing) out of the guy in front of me, and they called. 'Come on down, we want to talk to you.'"

A rookie with experience, New York signed DeFelice as a free agent the same year it drafted Alabama quarterback Joe Namath.

"I was a pretty good offensive tackle and I bounced around, but we weren't in there for the money. Because there was no money. We were making 19, 20 (thousand). Joe was the highest paid rookie. He came in and his contract was 300-something thousand dollars. None of us guys were getting anything like that. But he deserved it," DeFelice said.

"The first year, Weeb Ewbank was the coach, and he decided he wanted to play a (preseason) game in Alabama. I think 80,000 people were there just to see Joe.

"I'm on the opening kickoff and run down the field and come to the bench. Alabama's as hot as hell and I put my helmet down. (Veteran tackle) Sherman Plunkett goes out with the offense and is on the field, and on the first play, boom, he goes down. I was just sitting down and heard, 'DeFelice!' I reach down and grab the helmet. I'm going to get in there, boy, Sherm's out. And I go to put this helmet on my head, and I grabbed the wrong helmet.

"If I don't get this helmet on my head, Weeb Ewbank is going to put me on a bus and send me home. I got that helmet on my head."

Reunited with his own helmet, DeFelice would make the team as a backup.

"Southern Connecticut was a small teacher's school and we would draw 10,000 or something like that. But then when you come out of that tunnel and you've got 80,000 people in the stands, your heart is in your mouth," DeFelice said.

"They had Winston Hill and Sherman Plunkett; those were the great offensive tackles that were playing. I was on special teams, and the first time I went down on a kick, I was in heaven. And I got blasted! The guy picked me up and said, 'Welcome to the American Football League, buddy.'"

After a single season with the Jets, DeFelice found himself as the odd man out and heading south.

"In '66, the Miami Dolphins came about," he said. "And as a brand-new team, they had the right to grab people from different teams to make their roster, the expansion draft. Mike Hudock was the center, and the Jets moved him to the Dolphins.

"I made it and everything was good and then (John) Schmitt got hurt and the Jets reached back and grabbed Mike and sent me to the Dolphins. And then I went back into the Atlantic Conference again. I was on the Hartford Knights for about four years and finished my career there."

A Jets season ticket holder since he played for the team, DeFelice is the owner and president of Oxford Industries in New Britain, Connecticut.

"My company is three companies. I have Oxford Industries, which is sales and marketing in the aerospace business. We don't build anything; we represent companies and sell their products. I've been in this business now for almost 40 years," DeFelice said. "And my sons are in the business. My son, Scott, we have a 3D printing company, Oxford Performance Materials. We print parts for the human body. We can replace any part in the human body with a plastic part.  

"And my son, Nick, he has Oxford Polymers. We make pellets for injection molding companies. We send the pellets to the companies and they make parts out of them."

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