Aliquippa native Revis comes home again
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — None of his New York Jets teammates knows the nuances and hazards of the unpredictable Heinz Field turf as well as cornerback Darrelle Revis.
For three years he helped wear out the field while playing for Pitt. In his return last month, he helped the Jets beat the Steelers.
"The playing surface is very tough," he said.
But nearly in the same breath, Revis referred to the field, and the turf at Three Rivers Stadium that preceded it, as "hallowed ground." In fact, he said it twice. Before his accomplished college career, long before he became known as perhaps the best at his position in the NFL, Revis grew up in Aliquippa well-schooled in Steelers history and tradition.
"It's just the environment," he said. "They play great football, the fans are great. It's a blue-collar city, and they love their football."
At 6:30 p.m. Sunday, when the Jets face the Steelers for the AFC title at Heinz Field, Revis will try to help write a new chapter in an historic text. This one, however, belongs not to the team of his youth but to his current employer. New York went to its only Super Bowl, and won it, 42 years ago, before Richard Nixon took office and a man walked on the moon.
The Jets and their fans believe a return to the big top is long overdue. For Revis and defensive end Jason Taylor, a former Woodland Hills standout, it would be extra sweet to come home to do it.
"We talk about it all the time," Revis said Wednesday. "We talked about getting the win in front of our families and close friends. It is the AFC Championship Game, but it is more personal for me and Jason Taylor."
Nursing a slight hamstring injury, Revis briefly spoke of Aliquippa, although it was nothing suitable for a tourist brochure.
"It's a tough town," he said. "It makes you grow up fast. There's a lot of negativity there. The one thing I did growing up was lean on the people who were doing positive things."
He cited former NFL cornerback Ty Law; his uncle, former Pitt and NFL defensive lineman Sean Gilbert; and Hall of Famer Mike Ditka, a Pitt All-American, NFL All-Pro and Super Bowl-winning coach. Revis said he was inspired by "just seeing billboards of him and just wanting to make it out of there."
After Revis helped limit Reggie Wayne to one catch for 1 yard in the Jets' 17-16 wild-card victory over Indianapolis, Jets coach Rex Ryan called Revis "the best player in football." He added, "The impact he has is amazing."
Ryan said yesterday he plans to throw "multiple" defenses at the Steelers' receivers, as he did in the Jets' 22-17 victory last month. After all, Revis does not come in pairs.
"If I had more, I'd sign up for that," Ryan said. "He's the best in the business. No matter who you put him on, it won't be good for that person."
With opponents mostly trying to avoid him — he had no interceptions — Revis was outstanding this year. But he admittedly dropped off from 2009, when he picked off six passes, defended a league-best 34 throws and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Year. That led to a nasty, 35-day holdout and a period of adjustment after he returned with an extra year on his contract and a reported $32 million in guaranteed money.
"Coming into the season we all knew (the holdout) was going to be a setback," he said. "The coaches knew, (general manager Mike) Tannenbaum and those guys knew. Because I hadn't been in football mode. I was trying to work out as much as I can and do what I needed to do to prepare myself, but it's not the same when you're not in training camp.
"My personal goals, they are set high. I didn't reach a lot of them this year. But one of those goals is where we're at right now — getting to the place where we are at, winning this game and going to the Super Bowl. The team goal is getting to the Super Bowl and winning it."