As New York as "fuhgeddaboudit," Bronx native Sam Garnes didn't always share the same opinion as his neighborhood buddies.
"I grew up as a Jets fan. At that time, the teams that I liked were the Jets and the Yankees, and they both weren't playing very good. But I was still loyal," Garnes said.
"When you grow up in New York City, you're one or the other, and everyone around me were Met and Giant fans. Around that time, '85, '86, those teams were at the top of the world when it comes to New York City. But I was still a fan of the Jets and the Yankees. We had some pretty lean years, but we always had some great players that I could attach myself to.
"Al Toon was my favorite. Freeman McNeil, Ken O'Brien, I mean, I could go on for days. John Booty, (Mark) Gastineau, Joe Klecko, just a lot of great players. Even one of my favorite players, Ronnie Lott, came to play for the team."
Garnes may have been attached to the Jet legends, but when the NFL held its Draft in 1997, the team on the other side of the town chose the strong safety in the fifth round out of the University of Cincinnati.
With the Giants for five seasons, Gaines helped them reach Super Bowl XXXV before becoming a free agent in 2002. That's when he determined the grass was Green(er) & White on the other side of the fence, and signed with the Jets.
"It was strange for me. At that time, it was more personal than business even though it was business," Garnes said. "I wanted to stay at home and play for the home team. Of course, I loved the opportunity to play for Herm Edwards and play with all the great players like Santana Moss and Marvin Jones. I wanted to stay at home and play with those guys because they had a lot of talent."
Garnes and his teammates let their talent do the talking during his first season with the Jets. Off to a less than stellar start, they controlled their own destiny by winning seven of their last nine games, and making the playoffs.
"We were 2-5 and everybody was counting us out. There were all kinds of stats that no one or maybe just one other team made the playoffs after starting 2-5," Garnes said. "We went out to San Diego, and I believe at that time they might have been 6-1.
"I remember they were switching their uniforms almost as if like in college when you have homecoming. We felt they were treating us as a team they knew they were going to beat. When you're a 6-1 playing a 2-5, you expect to win. But that was on the schedule prior to the season, and we went out there and gave them a nice little (44-13) butt-whipping. That changed our momentum of the season. We just started clicking."
Posting a 6-10 record the following year, the Jets weren't clicking quite as well. Garnes, in his seventh season, however, had a career-high 100 combined tackles to go along with two of his 10 career interceptions.
"I loved football, and when I was on the field, I always tried to do my best to get to get to where teams weren't used to. It was important for me to be a good tackler, stop the run, and do my job especially when it comes to covering man-to-man," Garnes said.
"That year was a battle because it was my second year there, and I just had to go out and put on a show. I know when you get a little bit older and the team's not playing great, you have a chance to be on the chopping block if you don't play well. So I gave it my all."
Choosing to retire following two seasons with the Jets, one of Garnes' fondest memories from his time with the team occurred off the field.
"Not to be too sentimental, but the hotel that we stayed in (for home games) was directly next to Ground Zero," Garnes said. "So when you looked out the window, Ground Zero was right there. That was important for the Jets, Herm Edwards, the guys, and everyone that was involved."
In the league for a total of seven seasons, 1997-03, the hard-hitting safety started in all but one game, and totaled 515 combined tackles, 391 solo, and appreciated being able to play for both hometown teams.
"It meant everything to me," he said. "I'm a loyal New Yorker through and through, and I love the fact that when my career was over, I met a lot of New York, New Jersey, and even Connecticut people that told me they loved my style. And I knew what that meant. They liked a tough brand of football."
Garnes' second career would be coaching that brand of football. After working first at the high school level, he became an assistant coach for the NFL Europe's Cologne Centurions, followed by the United Football League's Las Vegas Locomotives, before he moved on to coach in the NFL for seven years with Carolina, Denver, and Chicago.
"I always thought I would be a coach once I was done playing because I was a football junkie. I've been involved with football, obviously, since I was a little kid," Garnes said. "We had a coach by the name of Jerry Horowitz, who happened to be at a rival high school in the Bronx. I went to Dewitt Clinton High School and he was with Kennedy. And that guy was like a lifesaver. He pointed colleges towards me. And then when I was done, he pointed me in the direction of coaching."
Making his home in North Jersey, Garnes has a daughter, Alivia, who's on the Dean's List at Arizona State. He owns a trucking company, R&S Nationwide Transport, which is based out of Fort Lee, NJ.
And while the trucking business takes up a majority of his time, Garnes still enjoys coaching. He has an academy, where he goes to different area high schools to work with the football teams.
"All my travels across the country, playing and otherwise, I know that this area, Jersey, does a great job as far as getting kids ready. And New York is doing everything they can. But I know a lot of people here don't have a blueprint," Garnes said.
"We don't have a lot of big-time Division I players coming back and coaching. We don't have a lot of NFL people coming back and coaching. So I try to bring that to each school and give them a blueprint on how they should run their program. I don't go in there and tell anybody they have to do this. I'm giving them my opinion on what I see."