All that stood between Wayne Chrebet and a brilliant NFL future was Harry Fisher. This was July 1995, the first day of the New York Jets' training camp. Chrebet, a rookie free-agent wide receiver, approached the gate of the team's practice complex. "Players only," said Fisher, the sentry at the Jets' Hofstra University headquarters.
"But I'm on the team," said the 5'10", 185-pound Chrebet (kra-BET).
" 'Like hell you are,' I told him," Fisher recalls. "I thought Wayne was just another kid from Hofstra."
Funny thing, Chrebet was. Fisher and a Division I-AA pedigree from Hofstra are two of the many obstacles Chrebet has had to overcome in forging an identity as the league's most dependable clutch receiver. Chrebet leads the NFL this season with 23 third-down catches, 17 of which have moved the chains.
Chrebet has met skepticism since his sophomore year at Garfield ( N.J.) High. Says his dad, Wayne Sr., "We eventually signed the consent waiver for football because we never thought Wayne would get in to play."
After Chrebet caught 66 passes as a rookie, the team showed its faith in him by drafting wideouts Keyshawn Johnson and Alex Van Dyke with their top two picks, then signing free agents Webster Slaughter and Jeff Graham. Chrebet, whose '96 income ($350,000) is less than what Johnson will pay in taxes, was undaunted. "I don't care if they bring in Jerry Rice," says Chrebet. "My role is the same: to be the league's best third-down receiver."