Dustin Keller said it’s easy to like wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. The rookie has his locker right next to the tight end, and Keller — like a lot of the players in the Jets offense and special teams — has been impressed with his work ethic.
“You always love to see a quiet rookie, a guy that’s not doing too much talking,” Keller said, “because they need to be listening they need to absorb it. So that’s what a lot of guys love about him.”
Kerley has been thrust into the spotlight as Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum use the emergence of a talented young player to distract from the turmoil-filled dismissal of veteran Derrick Mason, who came to the Jets during training camp as a replacement for slot receiver Jerricho Cotchery.
“I think that’s what’s being lost a little bit in this,” Ryan said. “Jeremy, and we all saw it, I know you guys saw it in training camp. He was impressive from the day he got here and it’s just getting better and better. We’re really excited about Jeremy.”
Ryan has to talk up Kerley, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bluster. Hard-to-impress special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff was instrumental in drafting Kerley, who has done a good job on punt returns. As a result of the Mason trade, Kerley could see less time with the coach who agitated for him.
“(Kerley has) done a great job,” Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said. “He works hard. He really does. He studies. He wants to learn. He wants to be a part of the game plan. He’s excited to play and he’s excited to practice, more importantly, than just playing on Sunday. I’m really proud of his development. The guy has no regard for his body. He will just go up and make a catch for you and sell out all the way. (He is) the ultimate team player, a heck of a rookie player.”
Kerley played high school football in Texas, where he was the Hutto High School quarterback for four years. He went on to Texas Christian University, where he looked up to former Horned Frog LaDainian Tomlinson. But despite all the accolades, being known by everyone in his home town for on-field heroics, Kerley doesn’t have the attendant sense of entitlement.
“I don’t think really those Texas high school players are normally are humble guys,” Keller said. “We have a unique one.”