NFL Free Agency: Antonio Garay Brings Colorful Personality, Strong Pass Rush, to New York Jets
The New York Jets Signed DL Antonio Garay to a One-Year Deal
Unlike some other teams who have been making flashy free agent splashes this spring, the Jets have laid relatively low. They've inked high-upside one-year deals with guard Willie Colon, among others, and the most lucrative signing they've made so far was an inexpensive three-year deal with running back Mike Goodson.
The signing of defensive lineman Antonio Garay to a one-year deal isn't a headliner grabber, but it's another low-risk signing for the Jets that could have some potential upside.
Last year, LaRon Landry signed a similar low-risk deal, had a career year, and parlayed it into a big payday.
While the 33-year-old Garay isn't likely to break out and make his first Pro Bowl like Landry did, signing with the Jets is a great opportunity for him to prove himself as a player who's still a force to be reckoned with.
Garay will compete with Kenrick Ellis and Damon Harrison for the starting nose tackle job in camp, as the departures of Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito have left the Jets without a veteran nose tackle on the roster.
On the surface, the first thing anyone usually notices about Garay is his hair, but read on to see more about what the big man is all about, and how he can help the Jets this season. (Not to mention more hairdos.)
Antonio Garay Has a Personality as Colorful as His Hairstyles
(This Antonio Garay look, also seen on the previous page, comes from a December 2012 game)
If you check out Antonio Garay's Twitter account (@AntonioGaray71) you might notice that for his Twitter bio, he uses a quote from the 2008 Liam Neeson film "Taken" to (quite aptly, I might add) describe his NFL career.
"I have a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you," it reads. As a guy who first entered the league a decade ago, it's quite fitting.
Garay has always been a guy who tries to have as much fun as he can while playing a game for a living, a self-described prankster and jokester, who nevertheless is all business when he's on the football field.
Antonio Garay Certainly Isn't Afraid to Be Himself
(Antonio Garay, circa December 2011)
Believe it or not, Antonio Garay's ever-changing hairstyles might not be the most unique thing about him.
The 6'4, 330-lb Garay is also the proud owner of a two-seat Smart car, with "Hello Kitty" logos on the side.
In 2012, NFL Films chronicled Garay, his life and the car that must be seen to be believed. As his teammates will tell you, Garay isn't in it for attention. He's just being himself, a guy who's comfortable in his own skin.
In the clip linked above, you'll also see that Garay has a noble inspiration for his eccentric hairdos. In 2010, amidst a career year with the San Diego Chargers, Garay met a young diehard Chargers fan named Timmy.
Timmy, who is afflicted with Williams syndrome and Lymphoma, had dyed a Chargers lightning bolt into his hair when he first met Garay. They became fast friends, and Garay took Timmy's hair ideas to new heights.
Antonio Garay Can Be an Impact Player if He Stays Healthy
(Antonio Garay, Week 17 of the 2011 season)
For all the talk about Antonio Garay's personality, the Jets signed him for his play on the field.
Garay has had tough luck with injuries in his career, including a brutal broken leg suffered in 2007 on an illegal block. He's bounced around the league, even playing on the Jets' practice squad for parts of the 2009 season.
"Adversity is something that's always made me," Garay said. "It's just caused me to work that much harder."
Garay's big break came when the Chargers signed him off the Jets' practice squad in December 2009, and he played quite well in a reserve role in the Chargers' playoff loss to the Jets a few weeks later.
In 2010, Garay would go on win the Chargers' starting nose tackle job, playing all 16 games for the first time in his career and emerging as one of the best pass rushing nose tackles in the game.
He had 5.5 sacks in 2010, and he helped the Chargers finish as the top-ranked defense in the NFL that year. He had a pretty solid 2011 season as well, earning himself a new two-year contract in March 2012.
Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle injury in camp, and he was limited him to just 151 total snaps in 2012. He did get some valuable experience at other defensive line positions, but he was cut loose after the season.
Garay Will Be a Key Cog in the New York Jets' Defensive Line Rotation
(Antonio Garay, on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 in September 2011)
In 2013, Garay will likely split nose tackle reps with Kenrick Ellis and Damon Harrison, two young prospects who the Jets are hoping can step up this season.
Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito, the Jets' two best nose tackles from last year, are gone. Garay now effectively fills the role of the veteran nose tackle in their place.
While Ellis and Harrison are expected to have bigger roles in 2013, Garay's presence enables the Jets to ease them into the lineup without putting too much pressure on them.
If Garay stays healthy, and starts creating havoc in the pocket again, his role could expand. Without a hefty price tag, Garay could prove to be a valuable piece of the puzzle for Rex Ryan and the Jets.
Garay, a New Jersey Native, Gets to Have a Homecoming of Sorts in 2013
(Antonio Garay, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, showing pride for his home state in November 2012)
Born and raised in Rahway, N.J., Antonio Garay has to be pretty pumped to sign with the New York Jets, whose practice facility is in nearby Florham Park, N.J., about half an hour or so away from his hometown.
Garay was a two-sport star at Rahway High School, playing offensive line and defensive line for the football team, as well as wrestling in the 275-lb weight class at the time and winning a national championship in 1998.
He wrestled and played football at Boston College, and was eventually drafted in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft. Ten years later, the Jersey boy has come full circle. It has to be pretty exciting.
For all of his unique quirks like his Hello Kitty-themed Smart car and his ever-changing hairstyles, make no mistake. Antonio Garay is a football player, first and foremost. He just likes to mix it up along the way.
"People will talk about the hair or the Hello Kitty car ... but ... football is my life," he said. "All I want to do is play football ... [and] I make sure that I enjoy every moment of it."