Last Friday, Degree Men -- makers of stuff that promises to keep a man from smelling like a rotten hobo -- sent a few mediaheads out to Trump National in Bedminster, N.J. for a day of golf with the New York Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. With football and golf being atop my list of favorite sports, I jumped at the opportunity by sending credible death threats around the office as my way of calling “dibs" to go on this trip.
When I arrived at Trump National on Friday, all I was sure of was that Mark and I were going to play golf and I'd have a chance to interview him. What I was hoping to gain, other than an invite back if he ever need a fourth (yes, I'm campaigning), was some quotable, quality material for the site. What I actually got was that and much more. In fact, if I had any preconceived notions going into the round about the kind of guy he is (or was), I can't say that I harbor them any longer. For someone that catches a hell-storm of fire from the New York media -- and less than a day prior to this golf outing had to hear rumors that the Jets would replace him with Tim Tebow in the red zone -- he came across as just another easy-going guy that blasts tunes on the golf course (Eagles Pandora is his station of choice) and struggles with his new swing.
After the round, which was cut short due to weather, I got a chance to sit down with the Jets ever-affable signal-caller to talk golf, football, and his offseason training.
(See, I told you I sat down with him.)
JC: You took up golf only two months ago, which is hard to believe since you should be awful and you’re not at all. What's been the most frustrating part of the game for you?
Mark Sanchez: I think it’s when you hit a really good shot and you feel good about it, and you hit a string of them in a row, and then three holes later you have the same exact shot and you just shank it, or hit it too fat or too thin. It’s frustrating.
JC: Believe me, I know… So right now, who would you say is the best golfer in the Jets’ locker room? Are you better than Tebow at this point?
MS: We haven’t golfed together. I know he’s pretty good, though. I’ve golfed with [Nick] Mangold a bit, he can just hit the heck out of the ball. He drives it a mile. Jim Leonard was pretty good, too. But yeah, we’ve got some good players.
JC: A great debate on our website is whether or not golf should actually be considered a sport. Care to weigh in?
MS: Absolutely. It is absolutely a sport just because of the amount of mental preparation. I mean, you’ve got to have soft hands to hit your chips, good hand-eye coordination to putt well, and strength to hit it down the fairway. I think it’s absolutely a sport.
JC: Switching gears to something that is definitely a sport: football. Have you changed anything this offseason with your workout routine or felt any added pressure to be in great shape coming off an 8-8 season?
MS: There’s always pressure here in New York. But physically, I tried to just lift a little more. Put a pound of mass on each leg and each pec and my arms a little bit. Hopefully I'll start the season off at 232 [pounds] where last year I was right under 230. By the end of last year, I think I lost a lot of strength down the stretch and physically I want to start the season off right and maintain that. So with my guy Todd Norman and our strength coach for the Jets, their programs have been very similar to try to set me up for success.
Mentally, the biggest challenge right now is to learn the new playbook and being confident going into the season.
JC: What is your regimen like on the day before and the day of a game?
MS: It just depends on when we play. Those two nights before the game, those are important and I like to really get good sleep because during the week you drain yourself, you’re up late studying and up early warming up and stretching.
Before games it’s always hard to eat so I just got to force it down. Not really the nerves but just the anticipation of the game just makes it tough for me to keep food down.
Other than that, I have a good warm-up routine that I like and coach [Matt] Cavanaugh puts me through a set of drills that he thinks are important. There’s a lot more that goes into it than that. You can’t just show up and play.
JC: While we were golfing you mentioned that it’s much harder to play a division rival. Is there anyone on the other side of the ball that always gives you a rough time?
MS: I think Ray Lewis has done a good job. He’s one of those guys that talks smack but he’ll be like “Hey that was a pretty good play.” He’s honest about it. [Terrell] Suggs and those guys, anybody in Baltimore really, they’re chipping at you quite a bit. That’s what makes them so fun to play against.
It’s exciting to look at that schedule. Buffalo’s going to be tough for us in the opening game. The Steelers are a great team. We played them a couple years ago; [Troy] Polamalu will be all over the field. And we’ve got the 49ers at home; they’ll be a tough defense to play. We have plenty of work cut out for us, so it’s going to be a good year.
JC: What did you think when the Jets decided to turn down "Hard Knocks?"
MS: That’s their decision, Mr. [Woody] Johnson and Mike Tannenbaum. They wanted to do what’s best for the team. We had our chance to do that and it went well but we wanted to give another team a chance to do it.
JC: Lastly, Degree Men brought us out here today, can you give me a little background about your relationship with them?
MS: I’m going into my third year with Degree. This is the first time we’ve golfed because I just started a couple months ago. I think the best part of the relationship is they really understand my schedule and they cater to my interests, which make the events fun. The relationship also works from a playing sense because they’re on the cutting edge of antiperspirant and deodorant and their whole aim right now is this motion-sense technology and I’m constantly moving and that’s when Degree kicks in. So it just fits my lifestyle.