Two days before Thanksgiving, 15 teammates and I spent our day off in glorious fashion. Members of the Freeport Fire Department came to our practice facility to pick us up on Tuesday.
The players volunteered their time to visit with various firehouses in the Queens and Manhattan vicinities. After numerous pictures with the firemen, they drove us to the "Big Apple."
We rode in a caravan of five red Chevy Suburbans with lights and sirens through rush-hour traffic. I was sitting in the front seat when the driver told me to push a yellow button on the dash. lnstantly, the sirens blared and the lights flashed. The gridlock traffic parted like the Red Sea and we cruised down the parkway.
Now I understand the reason why highways are called parkways in New York, because of the bumper-to-bumper non-moving traffic every hour of the day.
Upon arrival at the Queens firehouse, we were greeted by dozens of firefighters and their families. Our community relations staff members provided them with team yearbooks. For one hour we signed autographs on books, footballs, jerseys, pennants and other Jets memorabilia.
After the signing festivities, we sat down for lunch to converse about every play they remember from the last thirty years of New York football.
Later, a tour of the house was provided. Not surprisingly, the house had a weight room, which was reflected in the size of the firemen. Jokingly, my one contingency towards signing autographs was that I would be able to slide down the fire pole. Ten other players and myself went to the top floor to glide down the 20-foot pole. Before sliding down the firemen told me not to break my ankle because the annual visits would come to an end.
I stuck the landing on the ground and felt an extreme rush run through my body. Though the pole made the trip exciting, the most satisfaction came from seeing the excitement on the firefighters' faces from our appearance.
What sacrifices, if any, have you had to make to play in the NFL?
There are many sacrifices made everyday to play in the NFL. First, the offseason demands players to stay in top physical condition, which means not missing any days of working out. Also, during the season players must get their rest and that means not being able to stay up late or going out as much.
How would I go about starting my NFL career like yours? I'm about 6-foot-6, 275 pounds and have never been timed in the 40. In fact, I haven't played since high school. Can you show my tapes to Herm (Jets coach Herman Edwards) if I send them to you?
It's never too late to realize your dreams, but some things are harder to achieve than others.
Visit the San Jose Sabercats Web site to find an open tryout date and begin there.
Chris Smith of Lodi is a former St. Mary's High School and University of California, Davis football standout. Now an offensive tackle with the New York Jets, Smith is sharing his NFL rookie experience every Thursday throughout the season.
Comments about this column? Send mail to the News-Sentinel newsroom.
To subscribe to the Lodi News-Sentinel, fill out our online form or call our Subscriber Services Department at (209) 333-1400.