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Keidel: Ghost Of Vernon Gholston

By Jason Keidel
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You never knew Oliver Perez played football, too.

The Jets cut a cadre of renowned players this week, and one who wasn't but should have been.

In loose moments with friends you might say, "God has an odd sense of humor," which takes many contexts. You might mean the gal with the great face and galling body, or the reverse.

Or you may mean Vernon Gholston, whose body should come with a cape, who emerged from Ohio State built like Evander Holyfield but fought like Butterbean. Actually, that isn't fair to Butterbean.

Fifteen solo tackles is a good game for David Harris. Gholston did that in three years. He started five games. He has no sacks in the NFL.

Every year a chiseled beast like Gholston enters the NFL draft with "cant miss" branded across his chest. Yet Gholston dissolved into a quintessential cliché about not judging a book by its cover. Indeed, the pages in the short chapter Gholston calls his career are rather tattered.

At best, Gholston was an incongruous player, given his physique, and an incongruous pick for Mike Tannenbaum, who normally gets a good man while getting his man. Tannenbaum drafted Mark Sanchez, David Harris, Shonn Greene…and Vernon Gholston.

You can refine talent but you can't teach tenacity. To be as bad as Gholston was requires a special appetite for apathy. He should have had five sacks a season by accident, bumping into a quarterback who heretofore was running from Jason Taylor, who could teach Gholston a thing (or a thousand) about hustle.

Sometimes a sparkling surface blinds us. Sometimes we forget John Kruk was shaped like a handyman, Joe Montana like the postman. A few vital signs can't be measured by a scale or stopwatch. Jerry Rice never burned the grass during his 40-yard dash. Greg Maddux, built like Barney Miller, never short-circuited the radar gun. Perhaps Gholston is all metal and no mettle. Even the best teams bust on a draft pick.

Rex Ryan, for all his bombast, really knows defense, but couldn't fix this defender. There's no way everyone was wrong about Gholston. Too many fine football minds said he was a stud, so this is on Vernon. You can't make someone give a damn, and it will be a damn shame if he shrugs his shoulders through a three-year career and lets his Jets tenure define his life. He turns 25 in June, and will be 35 too soon. And plenty of players toiling on practice squads, welling with will, will wonder why Gholston wasted his skill.

For the first time in a decade, however, we can say that the Jets know what they're doing, shaving payroll perhaps to keep their stellar wideouts or simply to re-sign most of the players they cut for more proper pay. Damien Woody, Kris Jenkins, and Jason Taylor certainly warrant a second look.

Taylor, 36, has whispered about retirement. If so, many will argue he'll end his pro career (Canton) just a few miles from his college career (Akron), while Gholston's career seems to be ending before it begins.

Feel free to email me:

Can you think of a bigger Jets draft bust? Let us know in the comments below...

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