After a turbulent spring for her son, Jachai Polite’s mother, Katrina Simmons, has spent a lot of time crying. But they’ve been nothing but proud tears after the edge defender was selected in the third round of the 2019 draft by the Jets.
“Tears of joy, all the time. She’s been crying ever since and then I left yesterday, so she really was crying,” said Polite on Friday as the Green & White’s six-person draft class addressed the media for the first time. “I’m just trying to take care of her and do my job and be the best Jet I can be, so I can take care of her.”
Once considered a first-round talent, Polite became a second-day selection after struggling in interview settings and having difficulty with some physical testing. But he will start anew as his professional career gets underway.
“We pretty much get a guy with a fresh start. Whatever happened in the past is irrelevant to me,” said Jets first-year head coach Adam Gase. “We started last night with our meetings. Moving forward it’s just going to be on him to do the right things and worry about what he can control which is showing up on every day: be on time, knowing what he needs to do, go out there and practice hard. He knows that.”
While at Florida, Polite displayed a unique ability to get to the quarterback and make momentum-changing plays. This past season, Polite had 11 sacks and led the nation with six forced fumbles in addition to 45 tackles. He was one of the most explosive players in college football coming from the edge.
“I feel like it’s my speed and flexibility,” Polite said when asked about his traits that made him successful and adding, “bending around the corner.”
The Jets did a lot of research on Polite during the pre-draft process. Gase says the entire organization will not only be invested in the development of Polite but all the young players making the transition to the pro ranks.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with him when he came in here on his visit. We had a good discussion, I know the coaching staff spent a lot of time with him, the personnel guys spent a lot of time with him,” Gase said. “I like the way our players are ready to help him out and help all our young guys out and make sure everybody’s doing the right thing and kind of keeping guys on track.”
Polite is joining a team that already has three former Gators who figure to play prominent roles next year in C Jonotthan Harrison, S Marcus Maye and CB Brian Poole. He also attended the same Florida school — Mainland HS — as DL Leonard Williams.
“Here, I have great people around me. The locker room, teammates, people who went to my high school,” Polite said. “I’m surrounded by great people, so I have no choice but to change and be great.”
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Describing his time leading up to the draft as a humbling experience, Polite will make some adjustments. But his effort on the field should be a good match for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
“My determination, like never stopping on any plays,” he said of his style. “Just always going hard.”
Gase cautioned that you really shouldn’t label any player a unique pass rusher until they can win 1-on-1s consistently against elite offensive linemen. But Polite, who figures to be part of a number of sub packages from Day 1, has some intriguing tools.
“To see the skill set this guy has and to see kind of how he can grow and develop — to me he’s a fun guy to watch develop over time,” Gase said.
Just 21, Polite has time on his side. Work has begun and there is plenty to celebrate for his proud mom and a son who has intends on helping her retire soon.
“It’s great, getting over it finally and being part of a team, getting back working with a team,” Polite said. “It’s just great to be a Jet.”