Sat, 26 Sep 2020

Well-Traveled Guard Says Playing for His Hometown Team 'Is a Dream Come True' Randy Lange

It used to be said that it takes offensive linemen, oh, five years of working together to reach the top of their game together. Then, of course, the timeframe got shorter and shorter, to two years, to a year, to an offseason, to a training camp.

Now this camp in the time of COVID-19, all NFL teams and especially the Jets with perhaps four new O-line starters are being told that chemistry must be achieved in the span of a month, in practice only and not in preseason games, after spending no offseason time alongside each other.

Doable? Leave it to well-traveled guard Greg Van Roten to put it in perspective.

"Thankfully, we are all veterans and we've all played football before, so it's not our first time on the field. It's just going to be our first time next to each other," Van Roten said recently. "So the biggest challenge when you have a new group like that is that we all speak football, but we might call things by different names. We've just got to get on the same page with our communication if we want to be effective and hit the ground running fast.

"So there's going to be a learning curve, but I don't think it's going to be this insurmountable obstacle that we just can't figure out. There are a lot of veterans on this line, a lot of guys with a lot of football experience, so I don't think it will be too much of an issue."

There's no better authority than GVR to make that assessment. With the release of G Brian Winters last week, Van Roten at 30 is now the oldest offensive lineman and the sixth-oldest player on the roster. Entering his sixth NFL season that includes stops with Green Bay, Seattle and Jacksonville and the past three seasons with Carolina, he's the Jets lineman with the most NFL experience on the most teams in the league.

And that doesn't include the 2015 and '16 seasons with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts. So as a candidate to start on this new Jets unit, he's confident he can make this transition quickly and so can his new linemates.

"Fortunately for this certain environment we're in, this is not my first time being new to a team. I've done this a few times in the NFL, so I feel pretty prepared. its just a matter of translating what I know into the way the Jets speak," he said.

"I'm sure we're going to find ways to replicate that intensity and that environment in practice, and I think we're already at 80 guys so the roster's a little bit smaller. So instead of having those four preseason games, now we have four and a half, five, six weeks to get ready for Buffalo in Week One."

Van Roten has another reason for his personal intensity and that's because despite all cities he's called his football home, Toronto was as close as he'd been to his hometown team until he signed with the Jets in early April. He was born in Rockville Centre, NY, played his youth football for the Baldwin Bombers and his high school ball at Chaminade in Mineola - all within a 10-mile radius of the Green & White's former Hofstra University headquarters.

"It's like a dream come true," he said. "In elementary school, in my fifth-grade yearbook, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' 'I want to be an NFL player.' ... Then to come to the Jets and walk around the hallways and see the posters of all the guys I watched growing up has been just incredible so far.

"Putting on the jersey, it's weird for me to see myself in a Jets uniform. It's going to take some getting used to. But I'm definitely looking forward to it."

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