When most fans think of the NY Jets of the early 80’s and 90’s (pre-Parcells era) their is not much to smile about. Memories from that time consists of the late hit in Cleveland, the chants of “Joe Must Go”, the playoff loss to Houston, the quick one season for Pete Carroll, Rich Kotite. From 1984 through the 1996 season the team had four different head coaches, a handful of QBs and of course a lot of losing.
When I think of those years and all those players and coaches one player stands out to me, Kyle Clifton. In 1984 the NY Jets moved out of Shea Stadium and in to the Meadowlands. In that same year the team drafted Clifton (3rd round) out of Texas Christian. He played both ILB and on special teams.
Clifton was not the player who give you that quote in the head lines. Clifton was not the rah rah locker room guy, Although Clifton is not the over sized muscular player that plays ILB in todays NFL. Clifton always played with desire and lead by example. In his 13 season with the NY Jets Clifton was a staple on the field. he racked up 1468 solo tackles, 16 assisted tackles, 12 INTs, 13 forced fumbles and 15 fumble recoveries. In 1996 week # 8 Kyle was injured with a pulled hamstring, the Jets were 0-7 and on there way to Buffalo. Kyle never thought of sitting this one out and prepared like he would play. Not only did he play that week but he finished out the 1996 season and his career having played in 204 games, started 149 of them. Although in the eyes of the NL Clifton’s streak ended in 1987 when he refused to play in scab games. Through his peewee days to his last game never missed a game and his streak is at about 360 games.
Now his career numbers are not Hall of Fame numbers by any stretch of the imagination. But given the teams he played with, the coaches he played for and the slim seasons he played during, Kyle needs to be recognized. The team has the Kyle Clifton Award which is also called the Good Guy Award that is given by teammates. But if the Jets really want to recognize Clifton’s dedication to his team, teammates and the fans then he needs to be in the Ring of Honor. With Kyle Clifton in the Ring of Honor, fans will get to see his name week in and week out at NY Jet home games. Just like the way the fans got to see him play week in and week out during his career.