NO. 40

Fabulous fortitude

Jason Fabini proved the college scouts wrong and earned a starting spot with Bill Parcells' New York Jets as a rookie.

When Jason Fabini joined the New York Jets in 1998, the rookie figured his personal streak of playing 44 straight games would end. Everyone knew how Jets coach Bill Parcells disliked playing rookies.

But Parcells loved his fourth-round draft pick, and he needed a new right tackle after incumbent offensive lineman David Williams was forced to retire with a back injury. Fabini became the Jets' first rookie starter at right tackle since Marvin Powell in 1977.

At 6-foot-7, 320 pounds, Fabini's size and strength were loved by scouts, but they had questions about his poor 40-yard dash time. They also had questions about the quality of opponents he faced at the University of Cincinnati, where he had started all but one game of his career.

While at Cincinnati, Fabini was named All-USA Conference three straight years by playing both right and left tackle. He went to Cincinnati after making first-team All-State his senior season at Bishop Dwenger High School. He helped lead the Saints to a pair of state titles in the early '90s.

Despite his high school resume, Fabini's 235 pounds was not enough to attract Big Ten schools. Fabini was third on the Bearcats' depth chart going into his freshman season, but he worked his way up to start the team's second game that season against Indiana.

Fabini always had to prove himself, and Parcells turned out to be correct in his assessment as Fabini started all 16 regular-season games as a rookie.

"From college to the NFL, I've improved a lot on my pass blocking because at Cincinnati we weren't a big passing team," Fabini said last year. "But here in the NFL, if you can't pass-protect, you're not going to be here long."

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