New York Jets Throwback Thursday: Mark Gastineau


Time for a new edition of “Throwback Thursday”.

Tonight, we are going to flip the script a little bit. We have been talking a great deal of offensive players, like Don Maynard, Al Toon, and Wesley Walker. Despite a lack of success in getting back to the BIG game, the Jets have had some success with the skilled positions players.

But what about on defense? What is the Jets history like there?

Well, the Jets have had some terrific players on defense as well. Joe Klecko comes to mind as an example. They have also had a rich history of linebackers, with guys like Mo Lewis, Kyle Clifton, and John Abraham to name a few. But no Jets defensive player drew more attention than tonight’s subject, and not always for the right reasons.

Tonight’s player led the Jets through much of the 1980’s with his pass rushing prowess. He held the single season sack record until Michael Strahan beat him with a cheap sack of Brett Favre.

This about the top pass rushers of today. This player would be at or above the level of those guys. He was flamboyant, and had a great football career until an actress pulled him away from the game and the team.

Tonight’s subject is former defensive end, Mark Gastineau.

Next: Early Career

Mark Gastineau was born in Oklahoma, but moved with his parents to Arizona at the young age of seven. At the urging of his father, Gastineau played football in high school, but never to a level that drew interest from a major college.

He spent one year at Arizona State University following a year of Junior College. Then he transferred to the school now known as East Central University. During his college career, Gastineau posted 27 sacks, and was the top defensive lineman for the North squad at the 1979 Senior Bowl.

He was the first ever draft pick from the school when the Jets chose him in the second round of the 1979 NFL draft.

Next: New York Jets Career

For our younger readers, take a look at Mark Gastineau’s career stats:

Defense & Fumbles

The numbers above don’t even include unofficial sacks.  Sacks were not an official stat in 1981, but the Jets were pretty adept at getting to the quarterback anyway.  That year, Gastineau teamed with Marty Lyons, Joe Klecko, and Abdul Salaam to form the “New York Sack Exchange”, which posted 66 sacks, including 20 by Gastineau.  Now there you had a team that just exploded at the quarterback.

Gastineau was also an innovator, I guess.  One thing that his career was known for was the “sack dance”.  At times it got him into fights on the field, but the fans loved it.  Take a look at Gastineau on some video:

Gastineau was elected to the Pro Bowl five times straight from 1981-1985. He holds the Jets record for career sacks, single season sacks, and single game sacks. Gastineau held the all-time single season sacks mark, until Michael Strahan took the record with a questionable sack of his friend Brett Favre.

Gastineau unfortunately is remembered by many for a penalty in the 1986 playoffs. He committed a late hit on the Browns quarterback, extending a drive and eventually knocking the Jets out of the playoffs, in a year they had a great shot to get to the Super Bowl.

Mark Gastineau was one of the most explosive players in New York Jets history, but it all came to an end with the snap of your fingers.

Next: Retirement and After Football

You could say that actress Brigitte Nielsen was the “Yoko Ono” of the New York Jets defensive line.

Gastineau met Nielsen following the 1987 season. They had a torrid romance that off-season, known to the entire world due to its public nature. They were engaged, and then Gastineau had a great start to the 1988 season. Seven weeks in, Gastineau led the AFC in sacks, and just retired. Like that! He was gone. Nielsen was possibly suffering from cancer of the uterus, so he retired to be with his wife. He retired as the NFL all-time leader in sacks.

After football, he had a brief boxing career, during which he compiled a 15-2 record. He spent time in prison late in the 1990’s into the 2000’s for violations such as domestic violence. He reinvented himself after leaving Riker’s Island, reportedly finding faith in Christ. He sings with the Times Square Church and speaks on religious television programs.

Gastineau was selected for the Jets Ring of Honor in 2012, and rightfully so. Tonight, we look back at, defensive end, number 99, Mark Gastineau!

Next: Winston and Mariota Highlights

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