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If Dewayne Robertson fulfills the expectations and becomes the much-needed anchor in the middle of the Jets defensive line, it wont be the first time his football talent has made life better for those around him. Just ask Anthony Stevenson.
Robertsons childhood friend from "Orange Mound," Memphis, Stevenson had enough football skills to get scholarship sniffs from a few small schools, but not enough to be on the radar of any major program. Putting friendship first, Robertson agreed to pass up the spotlight of powerhouses Alabama and Auburn to play for the lower profile Kentucky - with one condition: If U.K. wanted Big Dewayne, they were taking his buddy Stevenson, too.
So with the 4th pick of the 2003 NFL Draft, the New York Jets drafted Loyalty. They drafted Character. And they drafted one hell of a Defensive Tackle.
The 6-1, 317 lb. junior has been a destructive presence on the field since being a 13-year old freshman starter at both DT and OT at Melrose High School in Tennessee. Melrose coach Tim Thompson, who recruited Dewayne after seeing the huge eighth-grader lounging on the Robertson familys front porch, knew he had something special from day one. "We had 225 (lbs.) on the bench press, and Dewayne sat down and did ten reps...going into his ninth grade year."
Four years later, Robertson was bench pressing 440 lbs. - and that was before entering Kentuckys strength and conditioning program. While there are plenty of guys who have the power, Robertson appears to be the total package.
"Hes got all the tools - size, speed, strength, agility - but hes also got the intangibles that make a player special, things like character and heart and work ethic," said Kentucky defensive coordinator John Goodner.
Its that total package that had Jets head coach Herm Edwards running jubilantly through the halls at Hofstra after the pick, while defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and defensive line coach Ruben Carter exchanged happy smiles and high fives.
"We got a unique player," said Edwards. "He does all the things you ask a guy at that position to do. When you get a guy like this, it helps everyone on the defense."
Robertson plans on fitting right in, most-likely in the three-technique tackle position in the mold of Tampa Bays Warren Sapp, whom he has often been compared to. "This is the type of defense I love," Robertson said.
His love for the game coupled with his size and skills translated into an impressive college career at Kentucky. In 32 games, the three-year starter racked up 114 tackles, 26 stops for a loss and 10.5 sacks, with 5 of those sacks coming this past season.
While the sack totals may not be eye-popping, it must be noted that Robertson has been the player offensive coordinators set their blocking schemes against since his high school days, facing virtually constant double- and even triple-teams.
On the rare occasions when he faced an isolated blocker, his strength, explosive movements and effort won out. "When he was singled, guys had a very difficult time handling him. He was beating everybody one-on-one." said coach Edwards.
The Jets had Roberston singled out when they packaged their number 13 and 22 first round picks to move up to the fourth spot. After some tense moments when Detroit and Houston were on the board at two and three, the Jets got the man they coveted. And, perhaps, the Jets brass wiped away the uneasy feeling many Jets followers had so far this offseason - something that may not have been possible had the Jets stood pat.
"The board was void in the middle," explained Jets general manager Terry Bradway, "We were able to trade up and get one of the impact players in this year's draft."
Solidifying a young and improving defensive line with a stout run stuffer that can also get to the quarterback has Jets fans impatiently counting the days until the opener in Washington. Raucous cheers from Gang Green faithful filled the room as NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue made the announcement - something that hasnt happened since the last time the Jets drafted in the top five, picking Keyshawn Johnson.
"I guess they like me, because they went crazy," said Robertson.
This year, the familiar "Boo-Who?"cries from Jets draftniks at the Garden waited until the second round, when Gang Green took Michigan linebacker Victor Hobson with the 53rd pick.
Hobson was a need pick, with Mo Lewis past his prime and James Darling lost through free agency to Arizona. The 6-0, 248 lb. Hobson is a crushing tackler with a non-stop motor and excellent instincts, but a curious pick in that he lacks elite speed - something that has hurt the Jets linebackers in Ted Cotrells defensive schemes.
With their third pick, the Jets went Michigan again, this time providing depth behind Jerald Sowell by picking fullback B.J. Askew, a powerful runner with decent hands who most likely will make most of his contributions on special teams.