As if the ground under quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington was not shaky enough, the Jets put some more pressure on their two underachieving signal-callers in today’s NFL draft. After passing up on the likes of Louisville’s Brian Brohm and Michigan’s Chad Henne on the first day of the draft and watching an assortment of other young quarterbacks pass by for nearly three rounds today, the Jets selected a quarterback that they hope can challenge for the starting job in the future.
With the 162nd overall pick (5th round), a pick that was acquired from the Green Bay Packers in a draft-day trade, the Jets selected Tennessee's Erik Ainge. Ainge, who possesses a solid frame at 6-foot-5, 221 pounds, comes to the Jets after a career that ranked among Tennessee’s all-time best. In 43 games as a Volunteer, with 35 of those coming as the starter, Ainge connected on 700 of 1,210 passing attempts, (57.8%) totaling 8,700 yards, 72 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. Ainge’s 8,700 yards passing rank him third in school history, as only Peyton Manning (11,201) and Casey Clausen (9,707) threw for more. In 2007, Ainge had his best collegiate season despite suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee, as he threw for 31 touchdowns and only ten interceptions.
After enjoying such a successful career with Tennessee, Ainge is excited to put on his new green and white jersey.
“Being as competitive as I am, I wanted to be the first pick in the draft,” Ainge said, "but round regardless, I couldn’t be happier about going to the New York Jets.”
In joining the Jets, Ainge will battle for the starting position with Clemens and Pennington, both of whom are familiar faces to Gang Green’s newest signal-caller.
“[The Jets] are really the only team in the league that I could tell you who their top two quarterbacks are," Ainge said.
For Ainge, the relationships with Clemens and Pennington date back to his early college days.
A native of Hillsboro, Ore., Ainge was destined to play football for the University of Oregon, but Clemens was starting for the Ducks at the time, and Ainge wanted to play immediately.
“I was going to go to Oregon originally, but [Clemens] was going into his junior year, and I didn’t want to wait three years to play because in college you only have four. I ended up coming to Tennessee almost because of Kellen,” he said.
Ainge’s close relationship with Pennington was formed when Pennington, a resident of Knoxville, Tenn., held a football camp in his hometown.
“Chad was always very nice and he’s said maybe I’ll get to play with or against you someday," Ainge said.
Well Pennington’s words ringed true today, and Ainge is “excited” to battle for the starting position.
“There’s two good quarterbacks [with the Jets] and they’re competing for a starting job right now and I know as well as anybody what it’s like to compete for a starting job,” Ainge said.
Ainge knows that playing alongside his teammates will surely be a prime learning experience.
“I’m going to be writing everything down and learning from them. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be competing, but at the same time, I’m just going to come in there and take it all in,” he said.