Jets rookie a natural
By BARRY WILNER
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Mark Sanchez is hoping lightning strikes twice.
The New York Jets' rookie quarterback showed up at his news conference yesterday wearing a black T-shirt with the word "Wonderboy" printed across the chest, complete with a silver lightning bolt.
"Yep, Roy Hobbs," Sanchez said with a big smile.
Hobbs, of course, is the power-hitting character played by Robert Redford in the 1984 film, "The Natural." The movie was based on Bernard Malamud's 1952 novel of the same name in which Hobbs carves his beloved bat, "Wonderboy," out of a tree that was split in half by a lightning bolt.
"I've had it for a while," Sanchez said. "I'm wearing everything that could bring a little something good."
New York is playing at Indianapolis in the AFC championship game tomorrow The Jets rallied to beat the then-undefeated Colts after they pulled Peyton Manning and other starters in the third quarter in Week 16.
The Jets have been a superstitious bunch during their playoff run, which explains the scraggly beard Sanchez has been sporting the past few weeks. Even coach Rex Ryan has refused to cut his hair or wash a grease stain out of his sweat shirt.
Despite saying he believed his team should be favorites to win the Super Bowl, the fact the Jets are having an internet pre-sale for items with "AFC Champions" printed on them kind of caught Ryan by surprise.
"But the other teams are doing it, too," Ryan said. "You have Indy, New Orleans, Minnesota, just so everybody is clear on that. But, I'll be honest, I was like, 'What? I like it, I like it.' "
The Jets' success in the past month has coincided with the efficient play by Sanchez, who has thrown just one interception in two playoff games. Another performance like that could help him become the first rookie quarterback to win three postseason games since the merger in 1970.
"It's just been important for me to understand that you don't always get to come back here, that it really is a privilege to be here," Sanchez said. "And once you get here, you know, all of the excitement of it and distractions, really, you just focus on playing."