Profiles of Ring of Honor Enshrinees Wesley Walker and Mark Gastineau
By Alan Schechter
With the ceremony tonight at halftime honoring Wesley Walker and Mark Gastineau, we wanted to take a look back at these two players. For the benefit of younger readers that hadn’t seen these players, and for the rest of us to remember and look back, we give you both of these players. Earlier today we looked at highlights, now we look at their carers. The first profile is a reprint of a profile we ran on Wesley Walker in April, the second is a new profile of Gastineau.
Originally from San Bernadino, California, WesleyWalker played his college football at the University of California, where was an All-American. He was chosen by the Jets with their second round pick in the 1977 draft (33rd overall). Wesley spend his entire career with the New York Jets, from 1977-1989.
He was best known for his blazing speed, averaging over 20 yards per catch for several years of his career, and his career average was 19 yards per catch.
He led the league in receiving yards in 1978, was elected to the Pro Bowl twice 1978 and 1982, and was named the New York Jets MVP in 1978.
In the 2 playoff games that the Jets won in their 1982 season playoff run, Walker was dominant, with 15 receptions for 314 yards and 2 TDs, in two road games.
His career best in receptions came in 1983 with 61, and his career high in TD passes was 12 in the 1986 season.
On his retirement, Wesley Walker was second in team history in receiving yardage with 8,306 yards.
A worthy enshrinee, WR Wesley Walker.
And now another Jets legend, DE Mark Gastineau.
Mark Gastineau was born in Oklahoma, but moved with parents to Arizona at the age of seven. At Round Valley High School, Mark was not a willing player, as he needed coaxking from his father to play the game. He played well, but didn’t draw any attention from major colleges. He began in junior college at Eastern Arizona Junior College, earning All-American honors for the 1975 season. From there, he went from there to Arizona State University, but transferred to East Central Oklahoma State University, now known as East Central University, for the balance of his college career. He finished his college career with 27 sacks, and was drafted by the Jets with their second round pick in the 1979 NFL draft, the 41st pick overall.
In 1981, he combined with Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons, and Abdul Salaam to form the “New York Sack Exchange”, which became one of the most feared defensive lines in football, with 66 total sacks in 1981, Gastineau with 20(unofficial, sacks did not become an official stat until 1982). 1983 was the year he led the league is sacks, officially, for the first time, with 19. He followed that up with a 22 sack season in 1984, which was an NFL record he held until 2001 when Michael Strahan broke it with 22.5 sacks.
The Jets moved from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Bud Carson in 1985, but despite the switch, and breaking his hand that year, Gastineau still finished second in the league with 13.5 sacks, still showing his dominance as a pass rusher in a new position.
Mark had a controversial careeer as well, beginning with the 1987 players strike. He was the first regular Jets player to cross the picket line and play in the replacement games, causing a great deal of tension between him and his teammates. Then came his abrupt retirement in 1987. He had started to date Brigitte Nielsen, the model/actress. Despite their highly public relationship, Gastineau continued to perform well, leading the AFC in sacks 7 weeks into the season. He responded by coming to the locker room, announcing his retirement, and that was the end of his NFL career. He later tried a brief comeback in the CFL, but that lasted only 4 games.
After his sports career was over, he did run into some trouble with the law, including spending 11 months in prison for parole violations, but since then Mark Gastineau has resurrected his life, found religion, and is a notably changed man, whos has gone around speaking about his experience.
For his career, Gastineau made the Pro Bowl five straight years, from 1981-1985. He was also an All-Pro and All-AFC selection in these years. Mark was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1982, and the AFC Player of the year in 1984. He earned Pro Bowl MVP honors in 1984 as well, recording four sacks in the game.
Mark also holds another distinction, which likely will interest younger readers. For all of the celebrations you see these days, from the end zone craziness, to everything else, it didn’t start recently. Mark Gastineau was the first, when he introduced us to his sack dance. Take a look at this clip, where Mark shows us his moves following a sack:
It was banned for a while in the eighties for taunting, but as we all know, they dance and they celebrate now, and Mark Gastineau was the first.
All of that aside, he was a dominant force for the Jets, and another worthy member of the Ring of Honor. DE, Mark Gastineau.