Chrebet described the legendary Jets receiver as “kind of quiet, but definitely a character”
Former New York Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet and Jets X-Factor co-founder/editor Robby Sabo used the latest episode of The Underdog Jets Podcast, released on Tuesday, to pay tribute to the late, great Don Maynard.
The most prolific receiver in Jets history passed away from complications from dementia at the age of 86 on Monday.
Maynard remains the Jets’ all-time leader in receptions, yardage and touchdowns, and served as a professional football trailblazer as the first man to reach 10,000 all-time receiving yards.
Chrebet, another staple in the aerial chapters of the Jets’ record books, had the privilege of getting to know Maynard through several shared encounters during New York-based ceremonies. Each has been enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor at MetLife Stadium with Maynard being a charter member with Joe Namath and Joe Klecko in 2010 and Chrebet going in four years later.
While Maynard is one of only five Jets to have his jersey number (13) officially retired, no Jet has worn Chrebet’s 80 since his injury-induced retirement in 2005.
Chrebet recalled how Maynard recognized him after a breakout rookie season and cherished their subsequent get-togethers through on-field ceremonies.
“Right after my rookie year and I started out, I had a chance to meet him. (It was) just an honor to meet him, I idolized him. It’s funny that he knew stuff about me, I was like, this is Don Maynard, you know what I mean?” Chrebet recalled. “Every year at the Ring of Honor or the other events, me, him, and Wesley Walker always took a picture together and compare it from the year before.”
Chrebet praised how Maynard, despite his ailing health, managed to make a strong appearance at Kevin Mawae’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction and shared another cherished memory where he shared a conversation with both Maynard and Namath during the 2019 season when the Jets partook in the NFL’s 100th-anniversary celebration at MetLife Stadium.
He further praised Maynard as a man of great humor, referring to him as “kind of quiet but definitely a character.”
But beyond his outgoing personality, Maynard was cherished by Chrebet and Sabo for his sense of toughness. Maynard rarely missed games due to injury in the prime of his career and created a strong body of receiving work without the benefit of gloves and other amenities. He was renowned for playing with a single-bar helmet and no chinstrap, instead of using special padding to keep his headgear in place.
Close as he came to touching Maynard’s Jets records, Chrebet believes that those marks “stand the test of time,” and that his tallies are made all the more special by the fact that he obtained them in an era where forward passing was only recently starting to become accepted in professional playbooks.
“Back then, DBs could beat you up all over the field, all the way down the field. So it wasn’t as easy with the rules today,” Chrebet said of Maynard’s era of football. “(This was) back when they just started throwing the ball, Joe Namath came in and started chucking the ball around and that was his favorite receiver. But if you go back and look at the best receivers of all time, he’s definitely in that category.
“He played hard, he got bloodied up, no gloves, and he made such a great career there. I was just honored to follow in his footsteps.”
Following their Maynard tribute, Chrebet and Sabo discussed the end of the Jets’ 2021-22 season, one that ended with a thud in Orchard Park. Little time, fortunately, was spent on that finale, a 27-10 loss to the AFC East champion Buffalo Bills that saw the Jets (4-13) put up a team-record-low 53 yards in defeat.
Despite the lack of wins, Chrebet feels like there’s something to build upon thanks to the youthful strides New York made in the course of the season.
“The wins weren’t there, but they played hard. They won some games against some good playoff teams. So I’m not satisfied (with) not making the playoffs or winning championships, but as far as where we were years past, I like our position,” Chrebet said, further declaring that the Jets’ positioning in both the draft (two picks in the top 10 come the 2022 selection in Las Vegas) and salary cap space (currently sixth-best at over $54 million, per Over the Cap) make them a far more attractive metropolitan football option than the Giants, who bid farewell to both general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Joe Judge this week.
When it comes to Jets management, on the other hand, Chrebet is on board with the current group, declaring “in (head coach Robert) Saleh, I trust.”
“He gave me no reason not to believe that they’re going to get the job done,” Chrebet said. “For what they had (with) the injuries, I think they did a pretty good job. There’s a lot to build on. They need a whole offseason with this group together to get everything going smoothly. But I’m optimistic and I know other Jets fans are just as much and I like to see that.”
Register for an upcoming virtual meet-and-greet with Chrebet, hosted by Jets X-Factor, here.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags