FLORHAM PARK- The way Jonathon Rumph viewed it, his exit from the Jets practice facility following the team’s rookie minicamp in May didn’t really conclude with a ‘Goodbye,’ but rather a ‘see you later.’
Throughout the three practices, the big, undrafted rookie receiver worked to display to coaches his speed, physical presence and athletic ability. He felt he did. The Jets coaches agreed, but weren’t willing, just yet, to hand him an official NFL contract.
“They said I was on their short list,” Rumph said. “They told me to stay in shape and said they’d call.”
Three months later, New York did. And now Rumph is trying to make the most of his second opportunity.
From a physical standpoint, few players bring to the field what Rumph, a South Carolina native, does. The wideout is young (23), stands 6-5, weighs 218 pounds and jumped a 30-inch vertical at his pro day. He was once a four-star prospect following his freshman season at Holmes Community College –an honor he earned after catching 37 passes for 606 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. Shortly after, he committed to Georgia.
“Playing in junior college, that was a great experience for me,” Rumph said. “You’re a little crippled to some of the stuff that big Division 1 schools have, so you’ve got to learn to invest in yourself and dig deep. You learn some great knowledge about the game.”
Unfortunately for Rumph, his high school and JuCo success didn’t follow him to Athens. In two years playing for the Bulldogs, he caught just 18 passes for 297 yards and one touchdown. Still, he kept his NFL dream alive hoping a team would see him as a physical specimen. That team was the Jets. Now Rumph is hoping to reward them for their investment.
While buried at the bottom of New York’s depth chart, Rumph has worked to make the most out of every single repetition he’s received. Throughout the Jets offseason workouts, Rumph caught just about everything thrown his way, flashing multiple times to all in attendance. No matter if it’s in individuals or scout team, Rumph says he’s working to perfect each and every aspect of his game. But what’s No. 1 on his to-do list? Learning how to use his 6-5 frame to his advantage.
While there are few receivers in the NFL who have Rumph’s stature, he says there’s even fewer that know how to utilize that height to the best of their abilities. If he’s able to do that, his dream of making an NFL roster may become reality.
“You need to learn to use your height to aid your game,” Rumph said. “Height is something that God blessed me with, but I need to be able to use it to help me.
“I’ve been working on being physical, being flexible and getting in-and-out of my breaks because that will help me more at the line. By doing that, I can then improve on coming out of my breaks and dropping my hips.”
If Rumph can learn to polish his game outside of being just a physical specimen, he could develop into a useful tool for quarterback Geno Smith down the road. Not one player on the Jets roster, other than Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, stands taller than 6-2. But before Rumph even thinks of making a difference on the field with the starters, the receiver needs to first beat out the others at his position.
Presently, the Jets have four players (Marshall, Decker, Devin Smith, Jeremy Kerley) who are all certain to earn spots on the team’s 53-man roster. After that, there’s a solid group of players all competing for two, maybe three, positions. In that mix? Second-year players Quincy Enunwa, Walter Powell and Shaq Evans, along with veterans T.J. Graham, Chris Owusu, DeVier Posey and more.
What’s the fastest way for Rumph to show he deserves a spot? Display to the Jets what he already knows:
“I’m a big-time playmaker,” Rumph said. “That’s what I’m here to show everybody.”