Mark Sanchez entered the New York Jets locker room last year unproven but already worth millions.
Hearing cries of “cha-ching” and “new money!” from his teammates, Sanchez said he has spent the last year earning the trust of his team. First, he said at a talk Wednesday in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, he focused on proving his dedication to football by putting in extra time to learn how to throw in the snow — something he had never had to do at the University of Southern California. Second, Sanchez said, he has made sure to share his perks with his teammates.
On Tuesday night, for instance, Sanchez brought a number of his teammates to the New York premiere of “Date Night,” where they got to walk down the red carpet and meet the film’s stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey.
“For [some of my teammates], that might never happen,” Sanchez said. “For me, I get invitations to stuff like that on a regular basis. I woke up this morning to texts that said ‘That was so cool, you don’t understand: I’ve watched “The Office” for years.’”
In conjunction with La Casa Cultural, Yale Athletics and the Intercultural Affairs Council, Sanchez and his brother — and agent — Nick Sanchez ’95 hosted a 90-minute talk in front of approximately 100 people in LC. The brothers talked about the business of the NFL, the pressures of celebrity and the impact of the family’s Mexican-American heritage.
Although Nick Sanchez lamented the fact that some of the conversations he has with his brother are strictly business, he said their relationship hasn’t changed much.
After Mark Sanchez tied the record for most interceptions in a game last October against the Buffalo Bills, Nick couldn’t help but tease his younger brother over the phone about the performance.
“In the middle of our conversation [a few days later] I said ‘Hold on, wait a second, I think you might have just thrown another interception,’” Nick said.
Mark said he was able to recover from the Buffalo game because of he had experienced a similar type of humiliation before — when he played his brothers in basketball.
“It was just like playing your brother in the backyard in hoops and losing 20–0,” he said. “It was nothing new, but just unfortunate that it happened on national TV.”
Although he was criticized by some when he announced last year that he was hiring his brother as his agent, Mark said that being with his brother has been a “natural fit” because he knows his older brother has the family’s interests in mind. Nick is a part-time agent and continues to practice law in California.
Beyond just his eldest brother Nick, Mark said that the middle brother, Brandon, has spent the past year living with Mark as his personal manager.
Citing the difficulties of adapting to the NFL lifestyle and playbook, Mark said that Brandon helps to keep his life in order by “taking care of the little things.”
“The strategy there was to let Mark focus on football,” Nick said. “That means taking the extracurricular things away so that he doesn’t have to worry about them, especially during his first year.”
Mark, who entered last year’s NFL Draft with a degree from USC but still had one more year left of college football eligibility, talked about the difficulty of having to choose whether or not to stay at USC for one more year.
“Mark said, ‘I’ve been here for four years, my peers have all gone on to get jobs, I’ve got my degree, I’m going to come back and not be a student-athlete anymore — I’m just going to be an athlete,’” Nick recalled.
With that, Mark decided to enter the NFL Draft, where he was drafted fifth overall after the Jets traded up to get him. In his rookie season, Sanchez led the Jets to their third-ever AFC Championship game.
His success at both USC and in New York has brought with him a loyal following in the Mexican-American community — something that he says he is very grateful for.
“A lot of people think it might be more stressful, but I feel like this is just another opportunity,” he said in an interview after the talk. “I get to help a specific group of people that have a connection with me — people who otherwise might not even watch the sport. It’s added fun.”
Sanchez was also frequently self-deprecating, recalling being “nailed” by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, as well as being laughed at by players on the other team after he accidentally spit out his mouthpiece as he took his first NFL snap.
After the talk, Mark Sanchez stayed behind to sign autographs and take pictures with dozens of audience members who stayed behind.
Rosalinda Garcia, assistant dean of Yale College and director of La Casa Cultural, said that the event sprung out of a desire to host a Latino athlete. After Garcia proposed Mark Sanchez, the members of La Casa realized that Sanchez’s brother, Nick, had gone to Yale, and after a series of e-mails, a date was set.
“I didn’t really believe it was going to happen until I saw the guys on campus today,” Garcia said.