Vladimir Ducasse's journey to the Jets was unlike that of the others who had assembled for New York's training camp in 2010. While they were raised around the game and played in youth football leagues, he was growing up unfamiliar with touchdowns, blitzes, or pancake blocks in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
In 2002, when he was 14 years old, Vlad and his younger brother, MacArthur, were sent to the United States by their father, Delinois, hoping they'd have a better life and a better opportunity to get an education. The two boys made their new home with an aunt and uncle in Stamford, Connecticut.
And more concerned with learning his ABC's than who was leading the AFC East, it took some time before Ducasse would learn about football. He'd gradually do so by playing the Madden video game, and didn't actually step onto the field until his junior year in high school.
A quick learner and, well, a pretty big kid, Ducasse excelled as an offensive tackle and earned a scholarship to the University of Massachusetts. Where after being named as a Division I-AA All-American as a senior, he was selected by the Jets in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
"It was great," Ducasse said. "At the time, it was everything that I was hoping for. It was close to home, close to my family. My main thing for me was being in a position to be able to take care of my family."
Shortly after the Draft, in which Ducasse was the only offensive lineman picked by the Jets, they chose to cut veteran guard Alan Faneca. Which in turn meant Ducasse wasn't exactly greeted by a welcome wagon when he got to training camp at SUNY Cortland.
"The way that the media was spinning it, it was like I was drafted to replace Alan Faneca," Ducasse said. "And at the time, some of the vets weren't happy about that because, obviously, Faneca was a Hall of Fame guy, and he was on top of his game. You've got this guy who was a leader in the locker room, and the next thing you know he got cut and they're bringing in this younger guy.
"So, yeah, at first, it took me a while to really connect with some of the veteran guys because of that. I didn't want people to look at me in a way that it was because of me that one of their leaders got cut.
"After a while the guys welcomed me. Along the line, Brandon Moore and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Damien Woody, he was a guy that played in Boston (College) and I played at UMass, so we kind of had that level of familiarity. Wayne Hunter was another guy. And we had a great guy, Nick Mangold. He was everybody's favorite. I got to connect with all those guys."
It certainly helped that the veterans warmed to the rookie, but Ducasse was still a rookie in the truest sense of the word. He just didn't have a lot of playing experience. Was there anything that surprised him about the game at the NFL level?
"Yeah, it definitely was an eye opener for me and it took a while to get adjusted because, I mean, obviously, college and the league, that's two totally different things," Ducasse said. "And I had only played the game for four years in college and two years of high school football. Six years. So when I got to the NFL, just the playbook alone... It's not like that I didn't understand the plays, but it was so much stuff. Far more than what I was used to.
"They had the bread-and-butter plays, the foundation plays, but within those foundation plays, they had other plays to throw the defense off. So I not only had to learn the foundation plays, I had to learn those plays.
"And you have to understand, when I got there, I got thrown into the fire. I was competing at guard and I had never played guard before. I played tackle my whole time in college, so it's like here's another position I have to learn again. But that's expected. That's why they call it being a professional athlete. They expect your mindset to be ready for whatever they throw at you."
Ducasse, who played in the first NFL game he ever saw, would spend four of his nine seasons in the league with the Jets.
"My first couple of years, there were ups and downs, but the guys in the locker room, they definitely made it as I was part of the team," Ducasse said. "And if you look back to our (2010) playoff game versus the Patriots when Bart Scott said, he can't wait, and Shonn Greene ran that last touchdown in there to put them to sleep. And going to Pittsburgh for that (AFC Championship) playoff game, those are the things that got stuck in my head.
"After that, I played for other NFL teams, and I always tried to give my best so we can actually get to the playoffs so I can have that same feeling."
Following his time with the Jets, Ducasse went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens, and Buffalo Bills before returning to New York and making his home in Brooklyn with his wife, Tatiana, and their children: Falsher, Ange, and Alyssa.
Ducasse is now looking at his and their future, and is in an MBA program through the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
"I went back to school to finish my undergrad. And then I was able to take advantage of some of the NFLPA programs. They partner with some universities," Ducasse said. "Once you have that (master's degree), you really can get into anything you want to. It's just one of those things where you're trying to build on your foundation.
"If you're looking at it, and with just everything that's been going on, if you don't have something to show for it, you really can't get in anything. So I can do some real estate, own my own company. I can get into health care. There's a lot of stuff I can do. But I have to take care of that first."