EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — What is it, exactly?
“What is Revis Island?” the man asked you back. “It’s right here. I guess you’ve just got to picture it. It’s not your typical vacation destination. It’s a place where it might be thundering and storming for receivers. It got renovated this offseason because of my injury, but it’s opening back up come the start of the season.”
Brand new Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis considered the nickname he trademarked.
“Mostly, it’s about doing the job,” he said.
When you’re the Island, you fear no one. You don’t fret over the ACL injury that wiped out your final season with the New York Jets, who traded you to the Bucs, who you face in today’s season opener. Figures. All that New York noise, everyone waiting to see you, and your knee, everyone. But fear? It never figures into anything.
When you’re the Island, the one the Bucs hope transforms a defense, you don’t talk about being the best cornerback in the NFL, not ever. That’s not your style, and you have style. Anyway, your peers say it for you.
On the Island, you grow up looking at your heroes at shut-down corner ... Deion Sanders ... Darrell Green ... and Ty Law, a neighborhood guy, same high school as you, Aliquippa, Pa.
“I think it all started when I first started playing football, when I played Pop Warner,” Revis said. “I tried to mimic Deion Sanders, Darrell Green, looking up at them guys, and Ty Law, my hometown guy, like people were trying to mimic (Michael) Jordan moves.”
“Hey, I was doing Jordan moves, too.”
He said, “To me, I viewed it as looking at success. They were the best, the best at what they did. I wanted to be like that. I just always wanted to be the best corner in the league.”
On the Island, you’re never the hunted. You’re the hunter.
“That’s my comfort zone, being out there on my island, just me and him, that receiver,” Revis said.
“All the tendencies come in. You’re studying his body language to a T. I mean, Randy Moss, when he’s out there, and he’s going to catch a ball, he grabs his gloves pre-snap. You look for signs, any tale you can get. It’s almost like he’s your prey. You’re studying them head to toe. What mannerisms? Is he frustrated about not getting balls? Is he frustrated he dropped the last pass? Does he grunt, does he look a certain way? Anything to tip me off.”
On the Island, you don’t blink.
“They try. I wouldn’t call it trash talk. It’s kind of clever. Chad Ochocinco, he’ll be like, ‘Hey, what did you eat for breakfast?’ ... No, dude, I know what you’re doing, Chad, you’re not going to buddy me up, friend me up and next thing you know you go score six (points).”
On the Island, even way back when you were a kid, you walked to football fields or basketball courts with a mission in mind. It’s instilled in you by family, including your uncle, Sean Gilbert, who played NFL ball, defensive line. But it’s Mom most of all. She was a track star, a sprinter, Diana Gilbert, nicknamed “Gold Shoes” for her footwear. She’s a guiding light. She worked to keep you fed and schooled and told you, “You’re never going to wind up on that corner, selling drugs.” She wanted more for you. The world, in fact. So did you.
On the Island, it doesn’t matter what you attack, whether it’s stuffing basketballs on a plastic hoop in the house when you’re 3 years old. Later, it’s chess you like, and you master it, too, then the drums. You’re still good at all those things.
“Whatever Darrelle took up, he conquered,” Diana said.
On the Island, it’s never about the talk. Like in AAU basketball. Your team is playing up, 10th graders against 11th graders, and the other team is talking junk about you, the point guard.
“Darrelle didn’t say a thing,” said John Geiger, an AAU teammate and now Revis’ business manager. “But he had 50 points by halftime. It’s true. Some kid talking about how he’s better than Darrelle and he gets 50 on him. Darrelle was quiet about it, no talk, but he dropped 50 on the guy just the same.”
On the Island, there’s no time to brag, say you’re the best or compare yourself to anyone else. That’s why supremely talented, supremely mouthy Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman gets under your skin a little while you’re rehabbing your knee, doing your work, everything it takes, and him going around the Super Bowl at New Orleans saying he’s the best corner in the league, inciting a Twitter spat.
You’re mad not because he’s saying he’s the best, but because he brings you into it. Why? What do you have to do with him? You never compare yourself to a contemporary, or to greats like Deion. On the Island, you don’t forget guys who paved the way.
On the Island, confidence is never an issue.
You’re out there to conquer, again, beginning today.
“I think I have the same approach Tom Brady would,” Revis said. “In this league, there are a lot of serious competitors. That flows through all of us. But there’s another thing, a killer instinct. Brady has it, I have it, Peyton Manning has it, Drew Brees has it. A Ray Lewis has it, a J.J. Watt — there are guys who you can tell. It’s taking the game to another notch, to a high-and-elite level.”
Someone mentions all those quarterbacks and receivers the Bucs will face. Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona and Calvin Johnson of Detroit, their names don’t even come up. But the Island will face them. In the division alone, there’s Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Marques Colston and Roddy White, Julio Jones ...
Darrelle Revis smiles.
“Bring ’em in.”
That’s Revis Island.