It appears as if Antonio Cromartie might have finally figured things out. Once perceived by some judgmental observers to be self-centered and completely consumed with living the fast life, the seven-year vet and current New York Jets corner seems to be on the straight and narrow nowadays.
His history is well documented. Rather than go into great detail about the personal trials that unfolded in the media and were also revealed a few years ago on HBO’s Hard Knocks, it’s time to shed light on the positive impact Cromartie is attempting to make in communities all over the country.
This past weekend for example, he worked in close connection with San Fernando Valley fitness guru Tommie Sykes to deliver the Antonio Cromartie Football Skills Camp at Chaminade High School, in suburban Los Angeles.
There, after talking shop with peers like Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers and CJ Spiller of the Buffalo Bills, Cromartie spoke candidly about his past on the gridiron and gave a glimpse of what the future potentially holds as he hopes to take another step toward restoring a once tarnished image.
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TDdaily: What brings you to sunny Southern California?
Antonio Cromartie: My wife is originally from out here. I do a lot of my training in this area during the offseason too. This place is a home away from home. When I retire, I’ll be back here for good. That’s the plan. You can’t beat the West Coast.
TD: Can talk about your involvement with this camp?
AC: Being here in California sometimes, I’m familiar with the football scene in Los Angeles. When I was approached about working with the youth, it was a no-brainer decision. I never had anything like this when I was coming up, so as professionals and with our resources, it’s only right that we help out these kids. Later in life, I want to know that I did my best to help give back to the game of football that gave so much to me.
TD: Switching gears, your name has been in the news in the past, some might say for the wrong reasons. How do you respond to your critics?
AC: I get a lot of questions, especially in New York, all of the time. It’s part of the game. It’s part of life. When you’re an athlete and in the public eye, it seems like everyone is going to have an opinion about you. It’s something you sign up for. No one is perfect. Not me. Not anyone. My goal is to be the best person I can be. You can’t look back and live with regret. You have to move forward. That’s what I’m doing right now.
TD: Moving forward then, training camp with coach Rex Ryan and the Jets starts sooner rather than later. Ready to get back to work?
AC: I can’t wait. It’s about time. It’s going to be great being around my team again, especially Rex. He’s a defensive guy, like me. He knows our scheme like the back of his hand and is going to be more involved on that side of the ball this season.
TD: Playing alongside Darrelle Revis for a few years, the two of you were considered as one of the best tandems in the NFL. Can you talk about the experience, and with him now playing for Tampa Bay, will things be different?
AC: Lining up alongside Darrelle, we had our fun and locked some people up. It was more than that, though. We picked each other’s brain. I learned a lot from him, both on and off the field. Nothing changes without him around. I mean, I wish him well, don’t get me wrong. My role is the same, my goal is to be a leader on defense for the Jets.
TD: The Jets tinkered with the idea of having you play on the offensive side of the ball in recent years. Marty Mornhinweg is the new offensive coordinator in New York, any discussions with him about that, has the topic been revisited?
AC: I play defense, there’s not much more to say. With Marty coming in, I think that he’s going to help out our quarterback situation and get the ball in the hands of our playmakers. I think I have enough things to worry about in the secondary.
TD: Being humble, I see. Everyone knows you can make things happen with the ball in your hands. Remember back in 2007 when you were with the San Diego Chargers, against the Minnesota Vikings, and returned the missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown? You are aware of the fact it’s an NFL record that will never be broken?
AC: You got me there. Still, I have no plans to learn the offensive playbook this season with the Jets. I’m sticking to what I do the best. It’s got me this far.
TD: It was a while ago granted, but do your best to relive that special teams sequence. It must have been surreal to take the ball the length of the field against the Vikings and score just before halftime. What was going through your mind?
AC: You don’t have time to think. You just react. Things fell into place for me. I was blessed. I like to think it was just another return, but really, it was a special moment. A memory I will always cherish. No one is going to touch that record. Maybe someone will tie it, but my name will be on the top line. When my days are done, I can sit back and tell my kids about what happened, show them what Daddy did on the football field.
TD: Absolutely positive that your foot didn’t touch the line in the back of the end zone before you decided to take off the record-breaking jaunt?
AC: Check the tape.
TD: No need.
AC: It’s all good.
TD: Anything you’d like to add? The floor is yours.
AC: I’m thankful for everything I have in my life right now, family and friends included. The road to get here wasn’t always easy. I’ve learned a lot along the way though. I’m also thankful to be in a position to help and give back, that’s one of the reasons I’m working today with the community in Los Angeles. My goal is to make a difference.
Sean Ceglinsky is a TDdaily contributor based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @seanceglinsky.