Ellis hoping his 11th season with Jets is Super

BY foxsports • September 11, 2010

Shaun Ellis looks around the New York Jets' locker room every now and then and thinks about all the players who have come and gone.

Friends, acquaintances and guys he has considered part of his family. When you've been on one NFL team for 11 years, you learn to adapt to constant change.

''I look at Bart Scott's No. 57 and I think, 'Wow, that used to be Mo Lewis,''' Ellis said. ''When you see your friends leave, it's like your brothers moving away from home a little bit. It's kind of disappointing. It's funny, though, how the people change in the lockers, but the numbers stay the same.''

The No. 92 green and white jersey has been worn by Ellis since he was the 12th overall draft pick out of Tennessee in 2000, when the Jets had four first-round selections. He has outlasted three Jets head coaches and dozens of former teammates. The 33-year-old Ellis is also one of only nine first-round picks from his draft class still on an NFL roster.

''He's like an older brother to me,'' defensive end Mike DeVito said. ''When I was a rookie, he took me under his wing. I owe him for me being here.''

When the Jets are introduced before their season opener Monday night at the New Meadowlands Stadium, Ellis' name will be the first announced. Fitting for a guy who's still here while the likes of Vinny Testaverde, Wayne Chrebet, Marvin Jones and Curtis Martin are long gone.

''Absolutely,'' coach Rex Ryan said. ''I respect the heck out of him.''

Ellis has earned respect throughout a career in which he has piled up 68 sacks, ranking third on the team's career list behind Joe Klecko (77 1/2) and Mark Gastineau (107 1/2).

''My goal is to play 15 years,'' the normally reserved Ellis recently told The Associated Press. ''It's 15 years and 100 sacks. I think I'm right in line to get that done.''

Ryan wholeheartedly agrees.

''He should think that way,'' the coach said. ''He played at such a high level last year, and this year I think he's practicing even better than he did then. So, I'm expecting huge things this year.''

So is Ellis. He has been through plenty of highs - last year's AFC championship game run - and lows - 4-12 seasons in 2005 and '07 - during his career. He's excited this year by the tantalizing thoughts of a Super Bowl.

''It's definitely been a work in progress from me coming in as a rookie and seeing where things have evolved,'' Ellis said. ''I think for a while, we were kind of the team that was taken lightly even though we did have some success. To have a team like this and have all the right people in position, we're loaded right now.''

That includes getting players such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie, and having Darrelle Revis back after settling his contract dispute.

''The way we finished last year was a huge stepping stone for our organization,'' Ellis said. ''To go into the offseason and get the players that we have now, it really gives us that shot at being able to get back there and finish the job.''

In Ellis' mind, that all starts with Ryan.

''For me, going through all the defensive coaches, head coaches and then have a guy like Rex come in, it's kind of like, I wish I could've had him early on, with some of the players we did have,'' Ellis said. ''This is the best team I've been on since I've been here.''

A free agent after this season, Ellis wants to remain with the team and retire as a Jet. He's not sure that will happen: Ellis was denied a contract extension in the offseason, in keeping with the team's policy, and even heard his name floated in the media as possible trade bait or that he might be cut.

''That was kind of like a slap in the face,'' Ellis said. ''I've been here and I felt like I've put in a lot of work for this franchise. I went through all the growing pains, along with the fans. I think I've probably been the most loyal Jet. I go out and play hard for the Jets and for the fans, and I feel their pain because I'm going through it, too.''

Ellis has certainly been a reliable player, missing just five games since becoming a starter in 2001. His ability to play all along the line has also made him a valuable part of Ryan's aggressive defense. Ellis actually credits former coach Eric Mangini, now with Cleveland, for turning him into the player he is now.

''When Mangini came in, he came to me and told me, 'Hey, you're my guy,''' Ellis said. ''I think he really helped my mental aspect and I look at things a lot differently. Mangini helped me grow up a lot.''

Despite being a mainstay for the franchise, Ellis has never been one of its flashiest players. He's got a cool nickname - Big Katt - but you won't find him on Twitter or doing TV ads.

''I'm not a huge talker in the media,'' he said, smiling. ''I don't know, I'm the guy who's always under the radar. Yeah, I've been here, but when new guys come in, it's like they get the notch above me with the fans. I'm like, 'OK, I'll just continue to do what I do: be myself.'''

That's what the Jets have counted on, going on 11 years.

''He's not a big rah-rah guy,'' said linebacker Bryan Thomas, one of Ellis' buddies. ''You can just watch the film of him playing. That speaks for itself. The man just gets it done for this team every year.''

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