For a brief moment, Mike Owen allowed himself to be caught up in the euphoria of being with an NFL team. Before raising the helmet over his head for his first practice with the New York Jets, he said he thought to himself, “Finally, you got an NFL helmet on.” Then, just as quickly, he strapped the helmet on and went about his business, just as if it was another practice.
Owen, a Syracuse tight end from Riverhead, was among the hopefuls who took part in the Jets’ rookie minicamp at their state-of-the-art practice facility in Florham Park, N.J., from last Thursday to Sunday. The Jets did not offer the undrafted free agent a contract, but Owen hopes to be invited to the team’s preseason training camp this summer.
“I went out there and just gave it my all,” Owen said. “I felt like I did really good. I had a lot of fun out there.”
Owen participated in the five practices that involved no hitting. The players, wearing helmets, shorts, jerseys and no pads, were put through individual drills and scrutinized for their technique and speed.
“I was excited just to be out there, to get on the practice field and show my talent,” Owen said. “It was just a normal practice.”
Wearing No. 44, Owen was one of three tight ends in the camp. The Jets currently have four active tight ends listed on their roster: Dustin Keller, Jeff Cumberland, Ben Hartsock and Matthew Mulligan.
Owen said he had met a lot of people, including Coach Rex Ryan. He said he hadn’t been nervous, but some of the other players had.
“A lot of people are excited, a lot of people are nervous,” he said. “It was mixed. It was both. A lot of people wanted to get out there and showcase themselves [to show] why they belong in the NFL.”
For some players coming out of college, the realization that the NFL is a business can be an eye-opener, but not for Owen. Syracuse prepared him well for that.
“Even coming to college, it was a business,” he said. “In high school, it’s about having fun. When you come to college, it’s a business, too.”
Owen returned to Syracuse on Sunday. He will graduate in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, he said, he needs to stay in shape and be prepared should the Jets or any other team invite him to preseason training camp. He said he isn’t picky.
“I’ll take any team,” he said. “It doesn’t matter.”