Jets' Revis is up to the competition in NFL
Lining up against New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has caused such a disappearing act among the NFL's elite wide receivers that they might as well be flying into the Bermuda Triangle or stranded on Alcatraz.
Revis' shutdown skills have caused such commotion that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday unofficially renamed Manhattan "Revis Island" in anticipation of today's AFC Championship Game between the Jets and Indianapolis Colts.
The nickname is befitting the blanket coverage provided by Revis, 24, who starred at Aliquippa High School and for the Pitt Panthers before developing a reputation as the NFL's premier cover man.
"I've been playing cornerback since I was 7, since I started football," he said. "I played a couple other positions — wide receiver, running back, a little bit of quarterback — but I always just liked what a cornerback does, getting interceptions and coming up and tackling and watching receivers and trying to shut them down.
"I grew up wanting to be like Deion Sanders, Ty Law, Darrell Green, Mel Blount. I guess it's happening, but I know you've still got to work hard and prove yourself every year."
A third-year pro, Revis has reduced receivers to shells of themselves. When lined up in man coverage, Revis held opponents to 27 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns this season. None of the seven players he faced who finished with 1,000-plus receiving yards managed more than 35 yards against Revis, who snapped Cincinnati's Chad Ochocinco's streak of 120 consecutive games with a reception by blanking him in the regular-season finale.
It's no wonder boisterous Jets coach Rex Ryan stumped for Revis to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and fumed when Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson received twice as many votes, 28-14.
"Some guys I've been around are great corners," Ryan said. "Generally, you match them on the second receiver and double their top receive. With Revis, you're able to take out their best receiver and then roll your coverage to a lesser receiver. You're almost daring your opponent to throw it to their best receiver."
'A great player'
Aliquippa football coach Mike Zmijanac remembers a conversation when Revis was a sophomore.
"The (message) was that the great ones were the first on the field and last off," Zmijanac said. "He was late once, when his car broke down. He never missed any practices. That wasn't his style."
Revis led the Quips to the 2004 WPIAL and PIAA Class AA championships, tying a finals record with five touchdowns and cementing his status as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Player of the Year. Last fall, he received the ultimate compliment in Quip Town, when the school retired his No. 2 jersey. Revis joined Aliquippa legends Mike Ditka, Sean Gilbert, Raphael 'Pudgy' Abercrombie and Ty Law with the honor.
"We're more proud of the way he carries himself, with his demeanor and attitude," Zmijanac said, "than his football success."
When he became Pitt coach in 2005, Dave Wannstedt was impressed by Revis' work ethic and physical play. The Panthers weren't using much "press" coverage but soon switched when they saw what a natural they had in Revis. By his junior season, Revis was responsible for covering the wide side of the field, leaving the opposite corner to handle only the boundary.
When Revis was selected with the 14th pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, Wannstedt figured he would live up to his first-round billing and earn a starting spot in the Jets' secondary. Revis has exceeded those expectations by becoming a student of the game.
"You're nervous about using the word 'great' with a guy who has been in the league for three years, but he's a great player," Wannstedt said. "I'm glad he's a Pitt Panther. He makes us all proud."
'A great skill level'
To hear Revis tell it, there is no secret to his success. It's all part of a plan.
"The one thing I do is set goals," Revis said. "That's what I've been doing since high school, and they all came true. Nobody's going to give it to you, so you've got to work extra hard to get those things."
NFL Network analyst and former star cornerback Deion Sanders praised Revis' wide variety of attributes.
"One thing people really don't understand is he's never out of position," Sanders said. "He's never high. He plays low. He has great balance. I'm not going to say he's a speedster, but he has a burst. He knows the integral parts of the game. He's a studier. He takes his work home with him.
"You're not going to worry about him going to jail after practice or something absurd like that. He is a consummate professional on and off the field, and his work habits are second to none. I just feel elated about this kid and his potential."
Revis has eight interceptions, including two in the postseason, and his 37 passes defensed were most in the NFL. When it comes to living on an island, Revis has proven to be quite the castaway.
"He's got a great skill level," Ryan said. "When you're looking at great corners, two things that they have to have: Can they find the football, and can they catch it• He can do both as well as anybody in the league."
Ryan isn't ruling out that Revis could do it as well as anybody in the history of the league, either.
"That's a tall order, but we'll see," Ryan said. "He's well on his way, that's for sure."