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Where Are They Now

Where Are They Now: Pat Terrell

Catch Up with the Jets Legend from Notre Dame

Jets safety Pat Terrell, 1994.TerrellPactionI

Go East, young man.

Well, that's not exactly how it goes, but it's what Pat Terrell did in 1994 when he signed as a free agent with the Jets after spending four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams.

Originally chosen by L.A. in the second round of the 1990 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame, where he helped the Irish win the 1988 National Championship, the safety played in 58 games with 30 starts, collecting four interceptions and 169 combined tackles.

New York's first-time head coach Pete Carroll planned to try him at free safety and at the nickel back position.

"Pete, I had known him for a while. He actually recruited me in high school," Terrell laughed. "He thought I could contribute to the Jets' defense. They were bringing a few different guys in. Ronnie Lott was there. And so I came in and was really excited about it. They really courted me, and took me downtown and showed me the lights. It was nice to be wanted."

After opening the season at 4-3, the Jets hit turbulence and had a rough landing, losing seven of their final nine games. Including the last five, beginning with the Week 13 game against division-rival Miami, thanks to quarterback Dan Marino's infamous combination fake spike/touchdown pass.

Deciding they needed a different pilot, Carroll was locked out of the cockpit and let go by then-owner Leon Hess a week after the season.

"Pete was an exciting young head coach and I just really enjoyed playing with him. And then he gets fired," Terrell said. "New York really never blossomed like I thought it would, and they made a lot of changes after Pete was fired."

One of those changes was Terrell. Waived during the following training camp, he was claimed by the expansion Carolina Panthers two days later.

Terrell's stay in New York was somewhat momentary, but memorable.

"The Jets were a great organization, but it was different," he said. "You're not the only game in town and that was the biggest thing I recognized about playing for the Jets. Jet fans are extremely loyal, but there's a lot going on in the city. So unless you're winning, you're not the front page.

"The Rams had some great fans. The watermelon heads and this and that, but after that it was very kind of, I want to say trendy. If we're winning, they're there. If not, there's too many things to do. New York fans were way more blue-collar, and the Jet fans were real fans. So it was just a different feel. I loved playing for the New York Jets because at the time, the AFC, which was completely different than the NFC, it just was a different flavor.

"And playing with Ronnie Lott was really cool. I mean, here's a guy I looked up to all through high school. To get a chance to play with him and interact with him, that was a lot of fun. And a lot happened in New York. I got engaged to Beth, who was my college sweetheart, so we'd been dating a long time. And I'd never spent a lot of time in the New York area up to that point, so really just having a chance to see the lights is memorable."

Getting the chance to go on and play for Carolina and Green Bay, what makes Terrell, who finished with 11 interceptions, five fumble recoveries and 393 combined tackles, most proud of his career?

"I strived to win and it was frustrating that I didn't get a Super Bowl and not many playoff victories," he said. "But I think I'm really proud that in spite of the fact that I had so many different defensive coordinators and head coaches, I was able to earn a starting position with each one. I never had the luxury of going into training camp knowing I'm the man. I think that when I look back on it, I'm very proud that I was able to find my place and have a decade-long career in the NFL.

"Sometimes it's kind of surreal that I look back and say, 'Wow! I played against the Troy Aikmans and the Steve Youngs and the Montanas and the Dan Marinos.' And it's nice to be respected by your peers. I think I earned a lot of respect by everybody I played against."

Terrell would earn the respect of his peers in his post-playing career as a pilot, too. Having taken up flying during his offseasons, he began working for American Trans Air in 2002. An airline which has contracts to fly for the military, Terrell captained a Boeing 757 and had flights all over the world, including transporting troops in and out of the Middle East during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I'd joke around sometimes that one of these days I'll pick a career that's not stressful like an NFL player or an airline pilot flying troops in and out of an active military zone," Terrell said. "But yeah, every once in a while, I'd be flying over Baghdad and have to kind of silently say, 'Oh, boy. Careful what you ask for.' But life is short, and I feel very blessed that I've been able to do things that I've always dreamt about doing as a kid.

"I've always been an aviation fanatic. My grandfather was involved with the Tuskegee Airmen and I think that's where the interest first lit. When you leave the game of football, and everybody goes through it, whether it's pee wee, high school, major college football, or the NFL, it's a letdown. It's hard to find something immediately that gives you the thrill and the passion that it takes to be able to perform at a high level in the NFL. And for me, at that time, the only thing I felt that could grab my interest was a professional aviation career."

With more flights requiring Terrell to be away from his family more often, he left after five years and embarked on his third career, one he began making roads for while he was a pilot – becoming the founder of Terrell Martials, a multi-state concrete supply company.

"One of the things I recognized as an airline pilot is technology was changing," said Terrell, whose interest in the field began as a teenager working at his dad's petroleum supply and uncle's concrete companies. "GPS was really getting more precise. And because of that, we were getting trained to land on more parallel runways. So I kind of put two and two together and said, 'There's not a lot of parallel runways like LAX around the country.' And so my entrepreneurship kind of kicked in.

"I built the company from scratch and we just worked extremely hard. We specialize in high-volume concrete projects like freeways and airport runways, and have had several projects throughout the country building new runways at Chicago O'Hare to Orlando International to (Houston's) George Bush International to Atlanta Hartsfield. We own fleets of portable concrete batch plants that we set up on site and manufacture concrete. And we'll be celebrating our 20th year this year.

"The key is just to have a passion about what you're doing, and to really do something that you understand. I feel that being an airline pilot gave me a sneak look at which direction the country's infrastructure was headed. My timing was good. And we have a specific niche in that industry. If you needed a new driveway, I can't help you because we set up a factory right on site. But if you need several hundred thousand cubic yards of concrete, I'm your man."

Making their home in Burr Ridge, IL, Terrell has seven children: Seth, Veronica, Luke, CeCe, Eli, Javi, and Elle; and says the best thing about being him is his wife, Beth.

"She really has kept me grounded and been a huge influence," he said. "She has always let me know what's important and to really support all my dreams. I've done a bunch of different things and she's always been there. And it's fun being Pat Terrell because I've got great kids. I've been blessed in so many different areas and having a great family is the No. 1 thing."