Flashlight Shining For Final Time?
By Christopher Mayone
Jets Staff Writer
December 28th, 2004
Sunday's game against New England could have been Wayne Chrebet's last home game as a NY Jet. (Jets Photo)
Sunday's game against New England could have been Wayne Chrebet's last home game as a NY Jet. (Jets Photo)
HEMPSTEAD, NY - It wasn’t supposed to end like this for Jets Wide receiver Wayne Chrebet.

One of the most prolific go-to guys in Jets history, is likely about to be gone thanks to a salary cap number of over $2Million next season.

Everyone knew it was coming. But in his probable final home game you wish his teammates could have given him a better send off than they did by failing to show up and getting embarrassed 23-7, against division foe New England.

Chrebet should have hauled in one of his patented third-down grabs over the middle taking a vicious smack yet hanging on. Eighty-thousand rabid fans should have risen from their seats and given him a standing ovation that shook Giants Stadium. A well deserved send-off.

He did have four catches, for 51 yards, but fans at the game were too busy getting smacked in the face with a dose of reality that the team simply was not in the same class as the defending Super Bowl champs. It probably slipped the minds of most Jets’ fans that it could be the last time they would see the cannon ball with a number 80 painted on his chest put his life on the line to catch a pass in traffic, dead in the middle of the field for a first down. Never once did you ever see the "aligator" arms from him. I mean, it’s not like the guy doesn’t deserve it. He ranks second in career receptions. More than Al Toon, more than Wesley Walker, more than everyone except Don Maynard.

Not too shabby for a 5-10 guy, who went undrafted coming out of Hofstra.

Ten-years later he is a team icon.

But it hasn’t always been easy for the kid who grew up in New Jersey. He had to endure constant bashing from Keyshawn Johnson. He was called out by his former teammate in Johnson’s critical book, then once he left Johnson called him a “flashlight” before the Jets played his new Tampa Bay team.

In one less year, Johnson has almost 1,000 more yards than Chrebet. However, “Me-Shawn” was the number top pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. Since then Johnson was traded from the Jets, was then run out of Tampa Bay, told a female reporter she could use a “spanking,” and consistently has never lived up to number one pick status. Throughout all the lip from Johnson Chrebet always took the classy high road and let his actions on the field speak instead.

Last year Chrebet missed most of the season due to post-concussion syndrome, and is one good lick away from leaving the field on a stretcher.

Most would have called it a career. But Chrebet is not your ordinary guy. He was deemed by the experts too small and too slow to play in this league. However, no scale could measure his heart and no stop watch could read his determination.

Oh, if only all 53 Jets had his guts. On a team that’s best defensive player sat out a playoff game with a stomach bug, number 80 is out there risking his life week in and week out. By the way, that same guy is on the shelf again with a "sore knee." Hmm, what a coincidence that the team faces a must win next week.

You want a role model? Look no further than the local kid who should never have been in this league who rose to be one of the most feared third down receivers in NFL history. Who would believe “The Flashlight” is shining bright 10 long years later.

If he ultimately is released after the season, Chrebet could catch on somewhere else next year as a possession receiver. However, he should just call it a career. Luckily, he made it to the finish line this year without serious injury. We all know though that luck eventually runs out. No matter what happens, Chrebet’s NFL dream story continues to be the motivation for every current and aspiring NFL player who’s been told they will never make it.