In episode two of The Underdog Jets Podcast, Wayne Chrebet talks about his first Jets camp and first serious NFL concussion.
That was just his rookie season with the team he grew up just 10 minutes away from.
Chrebet recently resumed his work on the Underdog Jets podcast with Robby Sabo. In episode two, the pair discussed Chrebet’s debut year with New York, when he was invited to the Jets’ camp as an undrafted free agent.
By now, the story of Chrebet’s first day in green, when he was initially denied entry by a security guard who believed the undersized Hofstra alum was a fan, is well known. Chrebet, however, explains that his NFL saga began long before that denial, instead commencing through a workout with John Garrett. The brother of former NFL head coach Jason Garrett and current coach of Lafayette College’s football team was working as the Cincinnati Bengals’ receivers coach at the time.
“He said to me, listen, the Cowboys don’t need you. But I think you can play in the league,” Chrebet recalled. “That was the first guy that gave me, you know, a glimmer of hope that maybe I could do this.”
The Jets contacted Chrebet shortly after the 1995 NFL draft. He was the 11th receiver on the team depth chart when training camp started, lining up across from second-year cornerback and future Pro Bowler Aaron Glenn.
Chrebet’s trademark No. 80 hadn’t emerged yet, as he instead donned the No. 3 he wore in Hempstead. Once he made the team, Chrebet earned his famous digits, worn in tribute to Steve Largent and Jerry Rice, two of his favorite receivers growing up.
Chrebet wound up making the Jets’ roster after a strong preseason, which ended with a five-reception performance in front of Garrett and the Bengals. His ensuing rookie season saw him earn 726 yards on 66 receptions, four of which went for touchdowns. He partook in all 16 games despite enduring a concussion during an early-season visit to Atlanta.
It was Week 4 that Chrebet points to as experiencing his first “serious concussion.”
“It’s the first time I ever played in a dome,” Chrebet recalled. “I remember getting hit, getting blindsided, in the game. I was sitting on the bench, and I was kind of out of it. I’m looking around and I see all the advertisements, things like McDonald’s and Gap and all these different things, and I honestly thought I was in the shopping mall, looking at the food court.”
Chrebet thinks about the decision to not let anybody know about it to this day.
“I always laugh about it,” Chrebet added. “Why was I out there? I didn’t let anybody know about it or anything like that. But that was my first serious concussion in the NFL.”
Wayne Chrebet remembers Week 4 of 1995, in Atlanta, when he broke a gang tackle and also suffered his first serious concussion. He thought he was in the foodcourt at one point. #Jets @waynechrebet @RobbySabo
— Jets X-Factor (@jetsxfactor) May 24, 2021
Obviously, today’s NFL is a much safer place than it was 25 years ago. While Chrebet has said in the past that he thinks the safety precautions are good for the game, he also admits that he could never play that way.
Like it or not, it’s just one of the many reasons he’s so beloved by Jets fandom.
The 1995 campaign marked the start of an 11-year career with the Jets, which ended in 2005. Chrebet was inducted into the Jets’ Ring of Honor at MetLife Stadium nine years later.
His NFL career was one that inspired many in the tri-state area, including the guard who nearly stopped his career before it really started. Chrebet revealed that he and the guard quickly moved past the incident, and even became friends when all was said and done.
“He’s a very old guy, Harry Fisher. I’ll never forget it,” Chrebet said with a smile. “He’s just a funny guy. We always laughed about (the incident) and I’ll always remember Harry.”
For more on the Underdog Jets Podcast, click here.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags