The Hofstra alum came to the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 1995. He spent 11 seasons with the team and his 580 career receptions are the third most ever by an undrafted player. During the press conference, Chrebet, a New Jersey native, said it was an honor and a privilege to spend his entire career with Gang Green and he dedicated his career to “the people who helped him achieve it.”
“I’m truly thankful for everybody who was with me for the ride,” Chrebet said. “I’m just overwhelmed by the support I’ve received over the years, especially on days like this.”
The undersized wide out also expressed gratitude for former Jets head coach Rich Kotite, who brought Chrebet into the league and gave him a chance. Chrebet did not disappoint as he played a crucial role on three playoff teams and finished his career second on the team’s all-time receptions list behind only Hall of Famer Don Maynard. Though he is only five feet ten inches tall, Chrebet said through perseverance and quiet confidence, he was able to succeed.
“I made myself believe that there’s things I could do and maybe I couldn’t,” Chrebet said. “Part of that made me the player I was. Part of that sadly ended my career for the way I play.”
Team owner Woody Johnson thanked Chrebet for his efforts throughout his career and said he had always admired the wide out even before he bought the team.
“His story is that of a longshot, a consummate overachiever, the true epitome of American Dream,” Johnson said. “Wayne’s trajectory to success represents everything great about this sport. He came to Hofstra as a teenager and he hasn’t left since.”
Johnson went on to praise Chrebet for his work in the community and then introduced Meg Manisian, the executive director of the Colleen Giblin Foundation which works to find cures for children with neurological diseases. Chrebet has worked closely with the foundation since he first met Manisian ten years ago and promised her son, Danny, who is stricken with a neurological illness, that he would support the world renowned research laboratory. Chrebet has donated much of his time to different charitable functions held by the foundation and also has encouraged friends and family to get involved in the group as well.
“At the end of the day, Wayne’s achievements in the football arena will be measured in the history books of the New York Jets organization,” Manisian said of Chrebet. “But in a much larger arena, in the end a much more important one, Wayne’s accomplishments will be immeasurable. In that promise he made some ten years ago, Wayne has and will continue to make a difference in Danny’s life, and also in the lives of countless other children worldwide.”
Chrebet has not yet made plans for the future but he did admit that it has been hard for him to walk away from the game he loves.
“I can’t explain, every day I wake up, look forward to working out and getting back on the field,” Chrebet said. “I have to remind myself it’s not going to happen. Hopefully I can find something else that I can put the passion I put into football into that.”
Jets fan will not soon forget number 80. For 11 years he wore the Green and White with pride and accomplished great things. He was one of the team’s most clutch performers as 379 of his career receptions were good for first downs, including a great many of them on third down conversions. He retires third all-time in receiving yards for the New York Jets.
However, Chrebet was a player that truly transcended the statistics. His story has served as an inspiration to people across the country. Although he doesn’t look the part of a professional football player, Chrebet always believed himself and through hard work became a solid starter for the Jets. At one point, Chrebet’s number 80 was the highest selling jersey in the entire NFL. Those who watched Chrebet play will remember him for the spunk and grit determination that he carried onto the football field.
The undersized kid from Garfield, New Jersey was able to achieve his dreams and become the face of the Jets organization for a few years. Without Chrebet, it is doubtful the Jets would have had the terrific success they had in the late 1990’s as they made the playoffs four times including the 1998 that made it to the AFC Championship game. Even in retirement, Chrebet said he plans to remain a strong supporter of the New York Jets organization.
“I’m a Jet forever,” Chrebet said. “I can’t really ever not remember being a Jet. I feel like I’ve been a Jet my whole life. Certainly, whatever capacity they want me involved, I’ll always do it for them and be here for the young guys, be a supporter of the franchise.