Wesley Walker spent his entire career with the New York Jets. He played there for 13 years – from 1977 to 1989 – and had 438 receptions for 8,306 yards and 71 touchdowns. Those numbers may seem ho hum by today’s standards, but Walker was a primary weapon on an explosive Jets offense that scored a lot of points in a defensive era. Heck, Walker was a two-time Pro Bowler and dominated the 1982 NFL playoffs, accounting for 15 catches for 314 yards and two touchdowns in two road games.
The Jets, however, seem to have forgotten all of that. Or they simply don’t care.
Walker, 60, said that he and his former teammates have never felt welcomed or appreciated by the Jets once their playing days were over, but new head coach Todd Bowles is apparently looking to change that.
“I really have a great deal of respect for Todd Bowles, who’s welcomed all of us back,” Walker said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “He wants us to come. We’re welcome anytime. And I had to tell him, I’ve had friends I played with – Herman Edwards was one – and they never made us feel comfortable. My coach, Richie Kotite – we had to give them notice if we would come into the complex. Bill Parcells would welcome all the Giants players and we just never felt welcome. I was telling Todd I appreciate it.”
It usually takes Walker two hours or longer to travel from his house to MetLife Stadium, but he doesn’t mind.
“It’s nice to have an organization who’s trying to reach out and do the right things,” he said. “And when you have people that you felt close to that didn’t give you that same kind of consideration, it was very disheartening. So I hope they try to change this situation, which has been very nice.”
Still, Walker couldn’t believe how much of an outcast he and others became over the years.
“I’ll take it even a step further,” he said. “When I retired, I got into a little TV and radio. I was doing a pre- and post-game show, and I had credentials to get into training camp. I remember it was very hard for me to actually be critical of a coach, Richie Kotite, at the time. You want to sugarcoat everything. I know players even during my time or before my time, they want to sugarcoat. They don’t want to say too much. They don’t want to badmouth the Jets. They really take offense to that, but you want to tell the truth. You want to be real with fans and I was able to do that.
“But I never in my history felt there was this concerted effort to try to make the relationship better between the players and make it comfortable,” Walker continued. “I played for 13 years and here I had access. I had the credentials to get in there. It didn’t matter. I could go do that. But if I had to bring my family or just show up to the camp, I would have to get permission. I felt that was like a kick in the face. You just never felt comfortable.
“I think they’re trying to reach out and make it better, and I hope they do that. But I wanted to tell Todd Bowles I really appreciate that and that’s what he wants to do. He wants us to feel welcome anytime we wanted to come. Not one coach has ever done that with us.”