Sowell Train Steams Ahead

By Christopher Mayone
Jets Staff Writer
December 21st, 2004
Jets FB Jerald Sowell is on his way to the Pro Bowl this season. (Jets Photo)
Jets FB Jerald Sowell is on his way to the Pro Bowl this season. (Jets Photo)
HEMPSTEAD, NY - 14 games with two carries and a measly 28 yards.

Sounds like a frustrating year for any NFL running back. Curtis Martin is over 1,500 yards, Colts RB Edgerrin James should surpass the 1,500 yard bench mark this Sunday. So imagine how the guy with just two lousy carries all season feels.

You can ask Jets’ fullback Jerald Sowell how miserable he is when he is at the Pro Bowl in Honolulu come February.

You see, Sowell is not a running back. He is a bulldozer. A real meat and potatoes fullback that earns his money by paving the way to the Hall of Fame for Martin. And his reward for doing this? No props on Sportscenter, no fanfare outside the city, and no big shoe endorsements. What he will get this year though is a well deserved trip to the ProBowl.

People have finally taken notice of the Jets “runner” as he leads all fullbacks on the aforementioned Pro Bowl ballot by almost 400,000 votes.

You mean to tell me a true blocker is getting some props? Not really. Sowell has developed into a legitimate offensive threat for Paul Hackett’s West Coast Offense. Last week alone, he hauled in five catches for eighty-three tough yards, including a nifty catch on a fade route from Chad Pennington down the right sideline. His 41 catches are second on the team behind only WR Justin McCareins.

Every catch Sowell seems to make is a big one. The eight-year pro from Tulane serves more like a tight end the Jets never had in passing situations.

Picture third-and-eight, Pennington to Sowell on a check down route three yards away from the line of scrimmage. A couple of bangs and grunts later, first down Jets. However un-pretty this is, it’s the Jets offense and Sowell has emerged at the best Jets fullback in years.

When Sowell’s predecessor Richie Anderson left two seasons ago for big money and a reunion in Dallas with former Jets coach Bill Parcells, many thought a huge hole would be left in the Jets offensive backfield. The critics couldn’t be more wrong. Not only did Sowell pick up the slack seamlessly, he’s better than Anderson. He is a tough runner who fights, claws, and scratches the extra inch. He locates the sticks, puts his head down and will not be denied of a first down. He'a also a better receiver than Anderson.

Sowell is a blue-collar runner who smacks you in the mouth, helps you up only to hit you again on the next down. Luckily, his overall contributions to the Jets offense are good enough for voters to take notice because having Sowell miss out on the trip to Hawaii would be a travesty. You won’t find another fullback in the NFL who is more important to their team’s offense than Sowell. The Jets’ underachieving tight ends should take notice. Heck, maybe the wide receivers could even learn something.

It’s frightening to think where this sometimes stagnant offense would be without Sowell. He is kind of like that old pair of jeans that fit just right. No matter what the occasion you can always break out that comfortable pair.

The game situation to Sowell doesn’t matter. Third-and-eight? Dump one off to him and he’ll fight for the marker and get it. Third-and-two? Hand if to Martin or Jordan behind Sowell and he’ll level the linebacker as the halfback moves the chains.

After the game, Sowell is always modest giving props to his teammates. The soft spoken Southerner with the Louisiana drawl simply explains he catches the pass and tries not to get tackled. A more accurate description is that the defenders were trying not to get run over by the runaway Sowell Train.

When the season ends the Sowell Train will rightfully pull into the Honolulu station. And hopefully he will take it easy on the defenders. The game is only an exhibition after all.

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