Van Roten On WFAN: Signing With Hometown Jets Is 'Unbelievable Opportunity'


Greg Van Roten was just looking for an opportunity to play in the NFL. 

Van Roten's football journey spanned across a handful of football teams, various training camps and workouts and two countries. All roads, however, led home for the New York native. On Saturday, Van Roten, 30, agreed to a three-year deal with the New York Jets, his childhood team.

"Obviously, it was an unbelievable opportunity to go play for your hometown team. I grew up a Jets fan," Van Roten told WFAN's Marc Malusis and Maggie Gray. "They used to practice a couple of towns over when they were at Hofstra. A lot of the Jets guys used to live on Long Island like Garden City, Point Lookout. So just being around that as a kid was really cool and watching the team growing up then going to play in the NFL was an amazing experience. We had kind of been circling each other ever since I came out of college. 

"I did a rookie mini-camp with the Jets in 2012 when Rex Ryan was the coach," Van Roten added. "When I was coming out of Canada, I did a workout with (the Jets) when Todd Bowles was the coach. Finally a couple of workouts and almost a decade later, I end up on the team."

Before he guarded for some of the most recognizable faces in the NFL, Van Roten was just a kid with high hopes from Long Island. He grew up in Nassau County and starred at Chaminade High School, where he served as captain during his senior year. When he inked the contract to return to New York, Van Roten posted a simple message on social media, "I’m coming home." 

Van Roten also shared a childhood photo during Halloween, where he wore a Jets jersey and helmet. He had no recollection of the photo if it weren't for the help of his mother, who stumbled across the moment as she dug through old photos. 

"I turned 30 on Feb. 26. She sent me this photo book and that was one of the pictures in there," Van Roten said. "So I hadn't seen that picture in forever. I have no idea how old I was. I looked pretty young — I'm going to say anywhere between 2 and 4 (years old) I guess — so I just saw that picture and I signed a contract Saturday night and I'm like, 'this is a perfect moment to put this out there.'

It’s been a long time coming! @nyjets

— Greg Van Roten (@GVR64) March 22, 2020

Van Roten wasn't selected at any point throughout the 2012 NFL Draft. He bounced around from Green Bay to Toronto, playing in the Canadian Football League for two years, before he proved to be a reliable NFL starter with the Carolina Panthers. 

He started in 27 games across two seasons in Carolina. Following the 2019 season, Van Roten saw the demand for guards in the free agent market and decided to test the water. He ultimately signed on to protect quarterback Sam Darnold for the next three seasons as the Jets' newest right guard. 

"The first couple of days of tampering and then free agency, you hear all these guys signing these deals," Van Roten said. "You look at like Erick Flowers going to Miami, I think everyone was like, 'wow, that's a great deal for him.' Then you see what Andrus Peat got to go back to New Orleans like wow, that's a lot of money. Then you see guys getting franchise tagged so you're like, 'there's so much money out there. I'm going to make X amount.'

"Then you get your offers and you're like 'huh, this is not where I thought I was going to be,'" Van Roten added. "People see my age and all that stuff and it kinda gets held against you. I've always disagreed with that. I think that yes, I'm 30 but I have low mileage just because of my journey. At the same time that I'm low mileage, I'm also very experienced. You have to swallow that pill and that pride, but you always want to make the most amount of money possible. At the end of the day, you're making a great living playing a game that you love so you get over it pretty quick."

Click the audio player above to listen to Greg Van Roten's interview in its entirety