Quarterback Mark Sanchez’s time with the New York Jets has largely reduced these days to the butt-fumble ending.
It’s seemingly easy to forget the glorious way it started with him being picked fifth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft and leading the Jets to the AFC title game as a rookie.
Now relegated to backup quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys and primary quarterback whisperer to rookie sensation Dak Prescott, Sanchez finds himself imparting wisdom from those old experiences in New York.
It’s something he can offer to Prescott that even incumbent starter Tony Romo, who didn’t play until his third year in the league, can’t.
Sanchez had veteran Mark Brunell to guide him with the Jets. He is leaning on those old teachings.
“As competitive as I am and as much as I want to play and I want the ball and I want to be out there, there’s a job to do,” Sanchez said. “There’s a respect. There’s a professionalism in this locker room, in this building and out on the field. I think what would I want to hear? What did I capitalize on? What did I miss? What experience can can I draw on and say ‘be wary of this. I don’t want to cloud your head. But from my experience I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you what happened to me.’ Brunell was big on body language and footwork and the way you carry yourself in this building.”
Brunell taught Sanchez how to take his time and enjoy the moment as a rookie. He returned the favor to Prescott following the 29-23 overtime victory against the Philadelphia Eagles Oct. 30.
“I would be out of the locker room so quick,” Sanchez said. “Brunell would tell me to take a few minutes after every game. He reminded me after we played at Detroit and won in overtime. I was hustling out of there and he said ‘just sit here. You just came back and won in overtime in the NFL. Soak it in.’ I told Dak the same thing after the Eagles game. 'Bro, you don't understand what you just did, you have no clue yet. It won't even register with you until years down the line. And you need to enjoy this and then forget about it and move on and have a good week next week.'"
There was also the moment on the sideline following Prescott’s first interception of the season late in the third quarter of the 30-16 victory at the Green Bay Packers Oct. 16. Sanchez challenged the rookie the rookie to own the situation.
“I just go back to that Green Bay and when he threw that interception and it was his first one of the year,” Sanchez said. “We are talking Game 6 and that’s unbelievable. I remember telling him ‘look I know what you’re going to do. I want you to show these other people. The team knows, but you go show them you go take it you go own this next drive. Take the ball down and score like you do every time and he did.”
The Packers got a field goal following the Prescott interception to make the score 20-9 early in the fourth quarter. The crowd at Lambeau Field was in a frenzy, thinking Green Bay had a chance to get back in the game.
Prescott drove the Cowboys 75 yards in seven plays, capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley to put the game away.
Sanchez turned from mentor to crazed fan.
"Somebody sent me the video that says 'Crazed fan attacks Dak after a touchdown' - and it was me," Sanchez said. "I jumped on him because I was so just happy for him. Because you talk about coming back from adversity and he hadn't really faced it yet. That was awesome."
Sanchez said he has believed in Prescott from Day 1 when everyone else was still doubting and thinking he was going to come crashing down to earth.
He said Prescott just carried himself with a different maturity and moxie.
“I knew the first day,” Sanchez said. “Everyone that I knew felt at some point its going to catch up with him and wanted to know the real deal, but dude’s legit. People call it moxie, call it grit, the ‘it factor’. I don’t know the psychology of it, whether its his competitive nature or something to do with his family history. You almost see it like when someone has had a near death experience or lost a loved one. You just have a different perspective on life.
“He has that ability to live in that moment and execute your job. He treats it the right way. He has done a good job of handling it. He’s a very humble kid. But he’s balling right now and he deserves everything he’s getting.”
He’s got a mentor and a fan in Sanchez.