On a recent afternoon, I was sitting in my office on a high-speed train bound for New York.
The doors opened, and a man approached me, smiling at me.
He had just arrived from a meeting with NFL owners and was in the process of signing a $400,000 contract with the team.
I had to admit, it was an unexpected surprise.
I thought it would be a sign that Whitfield had finally earned a roster spot, but it turned out to be a bit of a misperception.
“I’ve been waiting for this,” he told me.
I was surprised by his reaction.
When I told Whitfield that the New York Jets were interested in him, he said, “Why?”
“Because you’re a football player.”
I asked him what he meant by that.
“Because I’m good at it,” he said.
“You know what I mean?”
I asked, “You’re good at football?”
Whitfield continued to smile, even as he began to explain his football career.
He was the son of an All-American running back from Louisiana.
His father was a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys.
His mother was an All.
10 offensive lineman from Arkansas.
“That’s a long story,” he laughed.
I continued to ask him about the football.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“And you know what, I love football.
I’ve got a big family and I love it.
I love to play.
I got a couple of letters from the scouts and the general manager. “
When I first got drafted, I got really excited.
I got a couple of letters from the scouts and the general manager.
But then when I got to the first game, they just stopped calling me.
That was kind of a shock, you know?”
The Jets signed Whitfield in 2013.
Whitfield has been on the field for five games this season, catching nine passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.
He has a career average of 5.8 yards per reception.
His best game was a Week 13 performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when he caught eight passes for 126 yards and three touchdowns.
He also has seven tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.
“We always knew he could do it, because he’s been doing it for so long,” said coach Rex Ryan, who has coached Whitfield since he was 16.
“But we didn’t think we were gonna see that much from him.
Whitfield played college ball at LSU and played at Georgia Tech before transferring to Southern Mississippi. “
There are people that can’t play, and that’s why we got to make sure we’re putting the right guys in there.”
Whitfield played college ball at LSU and played at Georgia Tech before transferring to Southern Mississippi.
He is the fifth player in NFL history to sign with the Jets.
He became a free agent and signed a four-year, $36 million contract with them in 2013 that included $18 million guaranteed.
The Jets are expected to have a hard time retaining any of their other free agents.
Whitfields contract will pay him a $5.3 million base salary, with $2.6 million guaranteed, with a $4.3 bonus for every touchdown and $2 million for every interception.
Ryan and the Jets are also expected to add veteran wide receiver Devin Smith, who was cut in free agency and is still under contract with Tennessee.
He will make $2,775,000.
The team has also added wide receiver Jordan Matthews and cornerback Jalen Ramsey to its depth chart.
“He’s the best corner in the league,” Ryan said.
I asked Whitfield what he thought of his role with the offense.
“They’ve been really nice to me,” he responded.
“The only thing I’ve ever really felt bad about is I’m not the number one receiver, but I have been playing a lot of football.
They said it was a torn ACL. “
Just a few weeks ago, I had some bad news, and I had just gotten an MRI on my neck.
They said it was a torn ACL.
I just got that MRI the next day and everything was fine.
It’s a new day for me, a new team, a brand new offense. “
It’s just been awesome, man.
It’s a new day for me, a new team, a brand new offense.
I feel like everything’s going to turn around.
I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel like this again, but when I come back, I’m going to be playing.
I’ll be making the plays I need to make.”
Whitfields best season came in 2013, when the Jets were 10-5 and had a 6-4 record.
But in the two games he started that season, the Jets lost to the Dallas Cowboy and New Orleans Saints, and they lost a playoff game to the Buffalo Bills.
The last time he played for the Jets was Week 7 in 2016.
Whitworth played just six games that year, with two starts.
He finished the season with a