Post columnist Steve Serby catches up with new Jets tight end C.J. Uzomah for some Q&A before training camp opens.
Q: Describe your on-field mentality.
A: It’s different (laugh). There’s a definite switch when I’m in the locker room when it’s pads-on. I’m a very smiley guy and I love having fun, but there’s certain times when there’s just a switch that happens and it’s just like … I don’t know, it’s like all the demons inside of me come out, like I’m just allowed to just go out there and try to just physically impose my will. My mentality is you get to go onto this 53 ¹/₃-[yard]-by-100-yard field and … just absolutely try to crush someone’s soul, so … it’s fun (laugh).
Q: Some of your new teammates: What did you learn about Zach Wilson at Gozzer Ranch?
A: He’s one of the guys, he’s finding his way as a player, as a person. … I keep forgetting, like, I’m an old head now. Like I’m 29, he’s 22. I forget what it’s like to be a young football player, let alone a young quarterback going into his second year in New York. I know he’s talented as anything, he’s smart as anything … he’s got a — I’m trying so hard not to gush — he’s got a freaking cannon as an arm. He’s a good dude, he wants this team to go, and he knows it goes as he goes. He’s really working his butt off to make sure we are where we need to be.
Q: What kind of a ball does he throw compared to Joe Burrow?
A: I’m not gonna compare those two … he just launches the ball downfield with a flick of the wrist.
Q: Garrett Wilson?
A: A gazelle. The way he runs is so, like fluid, so smooth. If we’re going personality goofball, a terrible golfer, but he’s a gazelle when he’s running routes.
Q: I saw the video where the golf club went flying out of his hands.
A: I was with the worst group of golfers that I’ve ever been with in my entire life, and I had the absolute best time (laugh). It was incredible.
Q: Who else was there?
A: Elijah Moore is probably the worst golfer — but it was his first time ever golfing, so it’s fine, we all go through those stages, right? But we were holding up play pretty heavy for the people behind us. (Laugh) This man was hitting like five balls each shot — he was like, “Oh you know what, that was terrible, let me get another one.” We were all kind of doing it, but him more so than anybody else. … Terrible golfer, unbelievable player. The way he transitions in and out of his routes, it’s very unique for sure.
Q: What was your foursome?
A: It was me, Garrett, Elijah, Jeff Smith and then we had [Trevon] Wesco, but then Wesco went off after like a couple of holes because he was like, “Yeah you guys are terrible.”
Q: Breece Hall?
A: F–king stud. Like built like a brick crap house. Do-it-all-back.
Q: Braxton Berrios?
A: The O.G. homie … Little Broski … Rico Suave … all of the above (laugh). Braxton’s that guy that not only is he an unbelievable athlete, not only does he possess unbelievable ball skills, but he knows the ins and outs of the offense, the ins and outs of the defense, where to attack the defense, where to find the open holes, the avenues. He, along with the tight ends right now, are a quarterback’s best friend. You can’t get any better than having someone that you know is gonna be where they need to be in a certain defense. Friggin’ savant.
Q: Corey Davis?
A: Smoothest route-runner out here. Every route looks the same. So I don’t know how (chuckle) people are gonna know what he’s running.
Q: Sauce Gardner?
A: Freak of nature … longest arms ever … can cover the length of the field, like shutdown corner. I’m excited to see this kid play for sure.
Q: Mekhi Becton?
A: Biggest human being ever (laugh). A large physical specimen. He was grown in a lab for sure.
Q: Jermaine Johnson?
A: He’s a little Energizer bunny. I’m excited to see him with pads on for sure. He’s always talking, he’s always moving, he’s always doing something.
Q: You played with Carl Lawson in Cincinnati?
A: I’ve known about Carl since high school (laugh). Carl’s a freak of nature. Talk about someone who’s made out of a test tube. This man is rocked up, from the feet up. When he’s healthy, he’s a maniac. He had different tools in his tool belt that can … good luck blocking this man. I love him as a person, but as a player, he’s a nightmare.
Q: Robert Saleh?
A: Head honcho. Call him Honcho. He’s the life of the team. I haven’t been around a coach like him, let alone a head coach like him. Bringing constant energy at all times … even when he’s mellow, even when he’s giving a calm speech in the locker room you’re just like, “Oh God, this guy, at any moment, the switch is gonna pop off and we’re ready.”
Q: Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur?
A: Young prodigy … one of the smartest guys that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to have coach me for sure. I’ve had a couple and he’s up there with the top. His football intellect is off the charts. I can go in there and ask certain questions, and he’s gonna have the answer for things that I haven’t even asked yet that I didn’t know we’re gonna come up. It’s unbelievable.
Q: Why did you choose the Jets in free agency?
A: It’s a team that I see has potential to grow. I don’t love comparing certain situations, right? Like every team is different, but there’s similar attributes to this organization to what we’re trying to build now. We’re getting pieces that we need, we’re getting some presence in here to mold some of the younger guys, we got a great young talented quarterback, we got some great pieces on the perimeter, we have a really good [offensive] line, our defense is gonna be our defense, they’re gonna do them. … I think with the right guidance, with the tight leadership, the sky is the limit for this team. I love the coaches, I love the mentality and the philosophy that they’re kind of instilling in everyone.
Q: What is that mentality they’re trying to instill?
A: We’re gonna be the toughest people out there. We’re gonna grind with all gas, no brakes. When we’re out on the field, we’re getting our work in. When we’re in this building, everything else goes to the wayside, and that’s awesome. There’s a time for buddy-buddy, that’s this offseason, that’s nice, we’re building a team camaraderie, but when we’re in this building, it is ball. That’s the only thing that matters. If you have something going on on the outside, obviously we’re here for one another, but like this is my time to escape everything else. … This is my time to escape the craziness of the world and get my work in and be with my brothers. That’s that all-gas-no-brakes, we’re getting after it when we’re in this building.
Q: What are your thoughts on playing on the big, bright New York stage?
A: I love it. I love going to musicals, I love the production of everything, I love all eyes on you when you’re center stage. I couldn’t love it more man, this Jets fan base is crazy and I’m loving it.
Q: You went to one Rangers playoff game. What was that like?
A: It was electric, are you kidding me (laugh). That’s what I’m talking about. I love that. We got a multitude of teams, right? We got a multitude of professional teams in the city, and around the city, and people are just so passionate, people are going absolutely nuts with everything that’s going around in the city. We got the two baseball teams that are doing unbelievable right now, I go to the Mets games, and Mike White [backup QB] had friends who play for the Yankees. Anything sports related in New York, it’s just amplified, it’s just bigger, and it means more to the city, and I love it.
Q: Mike White has friends that play for the Yankees?
A: Yeah, he has a friend that plays for the Yankees. I think it’s Nestor [Cortes]. They played baseball growing up.
Q: Have you been to a Yankees game?
A: I went to the Yankees … I want to say Mariners … game, because he also had a friend growing up that played for the Mariners. They’re both pitchers, and he was like, “Dude, we gotta go to this game,” and I was like, “You bet we’re going (laugh).”
Q: That was your first time at Yankee Stadium?
A: It was, it was.
Q: And what’d you think?
A: I thought it was sick. I gotta say, I’m a Mets guy. But I enjoyed going to Yankee Stadium … it’s unbelievable.
Q: What makes you a Mets guy?
A: I sat down with two of my best friends [Shannon and Mac] and I was like, “All right, I’m gonna need like my teams now.” I can’t deviate, I gotta support all the New York teams for sure, I want to, so we talked about it and I was Rangers, Mets and Knicks. That’s what we decided on (laugh) and that’s what I’m gonna stick with, but I’m definitely gonna go out and support the boys no matter what.
Q: You threw out a first pitch at a Mets game, did you get it to home plate?
A: I did get it to home plate. It was cool because my dad got to be the catcher. My dad and I have never played catch before. It was a surreal moment. It got over the plate, it was low for sure … batter definitely woulda swing … but it got over the plate, Dad dropped it. Don’t want to throw Dad under the bus here … it coulda been a better pitch, but it was surreal.
Q: How come you never played catch with your dad?
A: We played catch with a football, but never baseball.
Q: Do you feel the best is yet to come for you?
A: I think with the relationship that I’m building with the quarterbacks and the relationship we’re building with each other, personally I think the sky’s the limit for myself. That’s kind of the standard I hold for myself. Last year was just another stepping stone to get to where I want to be personally. As I go, I help this young team go, and we make a run for it.
Q: What was playing in last year’s Super Bowl as a Bengal like for you?
A: I had a knee injury that I was kind of dealing with, and I wasn’t gonna miss it for the world. My dad made a Lombardi Trophy out of like a foam pool doodle and he cut it and made a football and spray painted it and like a glass vase that we had at the house, and we would play for the Lombardi in “Madden.” And my only thought was, “Man, I’ve gotta play on this game, I’ve gotta get this trophy.” It was a lifelong dream come true to play in it, and now we gotta get back and win.
Q: Sum up Joe Burrow.
A: He’s mature as hell. There’s a switch in him too that he’s just a competitor and he’s unfazed with a lot of things. … He’s a damn good quarterback for sure (chuckle).
Q: Ja’Marr Chase?
A: He’s a freak. His ball-tracking skills are second to none, really. I think he had two speeds — he has his speed with the ball before the ball’s thrown and after the ball’s thrown, and it’s two different things, and it kind of messes with defenses ’cause they think they’re keeping up with him and then all of a sudden he has this different gear and he’s gone.
Q: What do you recall about playing against C.J. Mosley?
A: I got to play him in college, too [at Auburn when Mosley played at Alabama]. I know he’s one of the smarter defensive players, instinctual, and he kind of knows where offenses are trying to attack, so he’s gonna be there and put the guys in the right position. I know that last year I made him miss on a slant route that I had and I was super happy about it, we talked about it after the game. He came up to me and said, “You didn’t have to do me like that.” I’m like, “You guys didn’t have to do ***** us ***** like that (laugh).” But he’s an unbelievable player.
Q: How did it affect or motivate you not getting an invite to the NFL Combine in 2015?
A: Oh yeah, that was huge (laugh). It upset me for sure. It definitely lit a fire under me.
Q: You still have a chip on your shoulder because of that?
A: Yeah 100 percent. If you play without a chip on your shoulder, then something might be kind of wrong with you (chuckle).
Q: What is the biggest obstacle or adversity you had to overcome?
A: I’d say the Achilles , that was kind of a huge blow for me personally. Thinking that I was gonna build chemistry and a relationship with a young quarterback [Burrow], and three games in you tear your Achilles, and you have to overcome that and you have to go through watching your boys out there grinding without you and that sucks. So just that process of understanding, “Man I gotta come back and I gotta be better than ever for the next year.” It was a grind for sure.
Q: What is the best practical joke you’ve pulled?
A: I put foam peanuts in someone’s car, with sticky notes and then I put little twirly little like loop things around their door handles, their brakes, their rims … all in the same car. [Gio Bernard] deserved it (laugh).
Q: If you could pick the brain of any tight end in NFL history, who would it be?
A: Probably Tony Gonzalez.
Q: If you could go 1-on-1 against any safety or linebacker in NFL history?
A: It just depends on what I’m doing, right? If I’m blocking, and trying to get that toughness and get the boys going, then I’m definitely saying Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher. And then, I’d probably say Troy Polamalu, one of those hard-hitting guys.
Q: Who was your favorite quarterback and what kind of quarterback were you in high school?
A: I enjoyed watching Terrelle Pryor in college, he was a tall quarterback that could kind of run a little bit and decently accurate passer. And that’s kind of like how I would describe my style in high school for sure. I was able to get out of trouble when I needed to, and when I got to the open field it was kind of like … ‘See ya,’ (laugh) for the most part. I made the throws where I needed to for my playmakers.
Q: Who was your boyhood idol?
A: Aside from the obvious like Mom and Dad, [Didier] Drogba from Chelsea.
Q: You played soccer?
A: I played because [my father] played soccer growing up. kind of wanted to be like him a little bit, then got too big. They wanted to put me at goalie and I wanted to score goals, so … (laugh)
Q: Have you been to Nigeria?
A: I have not. We were planning before COVID happened, and unfortunately we weren’t able to do it — my mom, dad and myself. We’re talking about going next year in the offseason.
Q: Your dad got his Master’s at Auburn?
A: He went back while I was there. We actually had one of the same teachers, we had Dr. Rainer. I had Rainer right before my dad did. He was like, “Man, this guy praises you, he says you’re a better student than I am.” I’m like, “Yeah I am.” That was a cool experience for sure.
Q: What course did he teach?
A: Information systems management.
Q: Four dinner guests?
A: Ryan Reynolds, Jay-Z, Alexander Hamilton, Kevin Hart.
Q: Favorite movie?
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Ryan Reynolds.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Ana de Armas.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Anything shrimp if we’re going actual food. But if we’re going anything in the world like last meal-type thing I’d say chocolate cake.
Q: Describe the personality of the Jets offense?
A: I think personally, because I’m here and I bring this presence, we’re gonna be able to just have fun. We’re gonna be able to be ourselves, we’re gonna be able to play within our system, within each person’s ability, but we’re gonna be able to have some fun out there, play a little loose, loosen up a little bit for 2 [Wilson], and he’s gonna be able to go back there and dissect defenses.
Q: Where is this team compared to where the Bengals were a year ago?
A: Where we are as a team, I think the sky is the limit. There’s no reason, in my mind, with the talent that we have, and the path that we’re on, why we should not be in the conversation of, “Oh wow, they’re contenders.” The media’s gonna say what the media says outside the locker room, I know that, we know that as a team. That’s that outside noise that we’re not gonna listen to. … We’re building brick-by-brick, and if we continue to do that, then line I said, the sky’s the limit, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be in conversation for contention.
Q: Contention for what?
A: For the Super Bowl! Come on now, that’s the goal, that’s the ultimate goal, that’s the dream.
Q: What is your message to Jets fans?
A: Just stick with it. The thing that I realize, and the thing that I’ve been telling the boys is you want to go undefeated, you want to win every game. But the fact of the matter is it’s very tough to do. And the thing that I kept telling these young guys, it’s not what happened, it’s not the loss, it’s how you respond after the loss, right? So what I want to tell fans is stick with us, stick with it. And it’s gonna be a grind of a season, but we’ve got the pieces, we know how to correct the ship when things head south. We’re going up. Even if something looks bleak, don’t count us out. Stick with us the entire game ’cause you don’t know what’s about to happen. … We’re gonna shock a lot of people. We’re not gonna shock too many Jets fans ’cause the Jets fans know what’s coming. But we’re gonna shock some people.