EXCLUSIVE:Interview with Jets Great Wesley Walker, Part II

By Alan Schechter
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In lieu of a Sunday Morning Spotlight, we bring you the second part of our interview from yesterday with the former Jets great, WR Wesley Walker. To get up to speed on the first part of the interview, click here.  Wesley was gracious to spend time with the Jet Press while signing autographs at “Sports Center”, in Middletown, NY.

THE JET PRESS-The best QB you ever played with..

WESLEY WALKER-Kenny O’Brien, hands down. But there was a guy that I played with in college, Joe Roth, and he had cancer four years prior and he came back, and he would have been a number one draft choice. I played with two guys that were pretty good, Vince Ferragamo and Steve Bartkowski. They were all, pro quarterbacks in college, and he(Roth), came up and surpassed all their records, and he was slated to be a number one draft choice, but the cancer creeped up, and he passed away. I always tell that story, and I compare him to Kenny O’Brien. Just the work ethic and the way he performed. I had someone come to my house to do a documentary on Joe Roth, and I was telling them just what we were doing as juniors and seniors, we were doing that in the pros. It reminded me of Kenny O’Brien and what we did back then, but we were still in college. Obviously I never had the opportunity to play with Joe Namath, or Dan Marino or Elway. But I would definitely take Ken O’Brien, hands down.

TJP-Toughest defensive back you ever played against?

WW-Shoot, my own teammates, Bobby Jackson and Jerry Holmes. I look at teams, Kansasy City as a whole, they were pretty good. Darrell Green was probably the one that I had, though I didn’t play him much since he was in the NFC, but as far as speed, I could be him and he could recover. He’s the only one that had my head turn and like “Whoa, I got to work hard at that”. They had Frank Minniefield and Chris Darden at Cleveland, that’s two defensive backs as a tandem that were pretty good and they were really, really tough. There’s so many people, you can’t sort of compare, and I can take different safeties…everybody brings something to the table. It’s hard to say who the number one guy was, but, one guy who was tough and he had help behind him was Mel Blount. He was big and fast. I’d rank him as up at the best with Mike Haynes.

TJP-How about somebody you could torch? Somebody you saw coming up on the schedule and you knew that you and Kenny (O’Brien) could light him up?

WW-I would feel that way with any game. Lester Hayes was in the Hall of Fame, you know, and I welcomed that(the competition). A lot of times people just feared my speed but, there wasn’t anybody I didn’t fear, it’s just that I knew what we could do as a team, and on the gameplan, and I just hoped that we could run the plays that the defense dictated and how we could be successful. I just remember one year, my offensive coordinator and receivers coach took a suggestion by me, they put it in practice, we worked on it, and put it in the game, and the next thing I knew I had 110 yards in the first half against Houston. I was really surpassing my All Pro year in 78, and I was actually averaging 24.4, and the follwoing year I was averaging 25.7 I was having this great run until I got hurt in that particular game and was out for the season. Probably the biggest thing against me was my health.

TJP-I am curious to what you think about Rex and the current team…

WW-I like Rex. I think right now though, you know, he does well with the media because he’s , he’ll give you a sound bite and he can talk and he’s very entertaining and that’s good. As far as the celebrations like Santonio Holmes, I just don’t go for that. I’m to the point now, enough talk, just play the game. They definitely have to get back on board, because they have lost that emphasis on the defensive part of the game. I think he’s a great coach, and it’s a team sport. Injuries are a big factor. You have to be on the same page as a whole. There can’t be any in-fighting. People don’t know how hard it is to have people stay healthy on every phase of the ball. You lose two, three guys, whether it’s on offense or defense, it could kill you. So I do have confidence in Rex….I just hope that ..even with Tim Tebow, puts a fire under Sanchez, he’s definitely got to get better. He’s got to move, or make some kind of progress, otherwise it’s gonna be the same thing.

TJP-Is there a receiver you like in the league right now, that you think is Wesley-like?

WW-You really can’t compare anybody like that, I was out in Arizona. I never watch a football game, I’m not a big sports fan, never really watch. I was out with a girlfriend of mine in Arizona, and she was a big Arizona Cardinals fan so I bought tickets and we went. It was the Seattle Seahawks, and I love Leon Washington, so we went to the game. Larry Fitzgerald had one of the best games I ever saw, just a tough kid and he could go over the middle..He actually got hit and I think he was couging up blood, and it was just, facinating. Over the years and time, he’s been consistent, and year in and year out he has had over 1,000 yards. I forget how many years in a row, but I would have to say that he is the best right now.

TJP-As a retired guy, do you have an opinion on this whole concussion thing?

WW-It’s funny that you mention that, I just signed on with an attorney out of New York. They contacted me after they had gotten my information, they are picking a couple of guys to be the face of this lawsuit. They are gonna probably use my name, almost to set the precedence, and it would be a history making type thing, being named in this particular suit. It’s not against the NFL for me, I wish the NFL, the Players Association and the alumni would just get together and there has to be some type of fund or long term care. Just some type of prevention to try to help these guys, because there are a lot of sad stories. I’ve had neck surgery after my career, I have fourteen screws, a plate and a cage in my neck. I’ve had nothing but problems since the surgery. I’ve had my shoulder reconstructed, I’ve had my knee reconstructed. Right now, they are starting to fail on me, it’s hard for me to get up in the morning. The stenosis, and the problem I have had in my neck, I have in my back, I just haven’t had any work done to it, which I refuse to. And so, I can relate to some of these things. After they received my records in New York, they said they would like to name you as part of this suit, and I am gonna just speak out. But my thing is hoping that they develop some funding for health care, and you know, future care for NFL players that fall under certain categories. A lot of guys don’t even have insurance.

Thanks to Wesley Walker for taking the time to talk with us, and a special thanks to the guys at Sports Center in Middletown, NY, for allowing us the time in their store. If you are in the Middletown, NY area, check them out, whether you are looking for a gift or a great sports memorabilia store, come and drop by.

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