Safety Victor Green was a Jet for almost a decade, scratching and clawing at first just to make it into the league, but establishing himself as one of the best players on a bad team and finally becoming a leader on a team that was in contention for a championship. As announced earlier today on TheJetsBlog podcast, Victor is the latest Jet to enter the Hall of Fame and was on hand to talk about his life and career with Brian and Corey (listen here).
Green's path to the NFL was not the traditional one, as he decided he wanted to play football while at Junior College and had to sit out a year due to being ineligible. He ended up being undrafted out of Akron, but made it onto the Jets practice squad and then onto the active roster where he contributed on special teams as a rookie. He was still just a backup in 1994, but started to make contributions on defense as well, learning from a decorated mentor over his first two seasons: Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.
After Lott's departure, Green moved into the starting lineup for a Jets team that won just four games over the next two seasons. However, he was a rare bright spot, becoming something of a fan favorite for his hard hitting style. His 207 tackles in 1996 still stands as a team record. To put that into some context, Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry, each of whom started 16 games last year and had productive years as tacklers, only managed to compile 183 combined.
Bill Parcells, who would then join the team and start to turn their fortunes around, would famously say "If Victor Green leads out team in tackles again, we're in trouble". The implication was that rather than clearing up everybody else's mess, Green needed to be out there making impact plays and that's exactly what happened over the next few years as the Jets were able to put more talented players in front of him.
Green had recorded his first career interception in 1995, then improved that by one in 1996. The pattern continued, as he would increase his number of interceptions by one per year until 2000, where he had six - his sixth consecutive season with a career high in interceptions. He also had a knack for making long returns and ranks 73rd all-time in that category, including two memorable touchdowns against the Patriots in 2000 and Miami in 2001. He also added seven sacks and 17 fumble recoveries over the course of his career.
While the 9-7 Jets missed the postseason in 1997, Green was a big part of their success in 1998 as they would end up a franchise-best 12-4 and progress to the AFC championship game. Unfortunately, they were unable to win that game and lost Vinny Testaverde in preseason the following year to again put a dent in their hopes of contending. At the end of that season, Green was said to be "miffed" at the fact he didn't receive an invitation to the Pro Bowl, but his teammates respected that he was one of their best players.
"I'll bet you right now that if Victor Green became a free agent every team in the league would want him," cornerback Otis Smith was once quoted as saying. "People say this about him and they say that about him. And all he's done in his career was play great football."
As Green told Bassett and Corey on the TJB Podcast, even though it's a modern term, the phrase "Play like a Jet" embodied everything that led him to be successful on the field:
"A Jet, to me, is fast and furious and no-one can stand in its way and that's the way I tried to play. I mean, I wasn't fearful of anyone. You know, 260, 270 pound tight end, full back, whatever. You know, I was gonna play like that Jet."
Green remained with the team in 2001 despite being forced to take a slight pay cut and has said that he wanted to remain a Jet for the rest of his career, but was unable to agree terms with the Jets for 2002 and ended up joining the New England Patriots for one season. While he admits he was bitter and that he got some revenge by returning an interception 90 yards in a Patriots blowout win over the Jets early in the season, Green called it a "difficult decision" and still considers himself a Jet who loves the team and wants them to do well. In the end, the Jets would win the AFC East and New England missed the postseason. Green would go on to play one final season with the New Orleans Saints, although it was rumored that he showed up at Jets mini-camp in 2003 with hopes of returning.
Green would finally re-sign with the team in 2006 in order that he could retire as a Jet and currently works in Atlanta with under-privileged children.
It's a pleasure to welcome Victor to our Hall of Fame and we congratulate him on a terrific career founded on the kind of hard work that Jets fans appreciate more than anything else.