Ducasse focused on getting better, earning more playing time with Jets
Vladimir Ducasse drives around in a Toyota Sequoia he purchased not long after signing a contract with the New York Jets that turned him into a millionaire.
It is the perfect vehicle for Ducasse, who became the highest pick out of the Stamford when he was taken in the second round of last spring's NFL Draft.
Like its owner, the SUV is unassuming, lacks glitz and does not draw attention, though the 6-foot-5, 330-pound offensive lineman tends to get second and third looks when he is in a crowd.
"I don't think I need to spend on a Ferrari," Ducasse said. "I just needed something for transportation."
Ducasse's focus these days is not on material things. It is not his style, and besides, as you might have read, there is a chance it might be some time before the former Stamford High School star gets to practice his craft again anytime soon.
"I'm not letting all this strike stuff bother me," Ducasse said. "I've got the necessary stuff I need. The whole year, the player personnel guys talked to us about saving money because of a possible lockout, and that's what I'm doing."
The top of Ducasse's agenda -- the overriding priority -- is to make sure that once the games begin again, he is in a position to earn a starting job and get more playing time.
"I've been working out and trying to stay in shape," Ducasse said.
Ducasse might have had unrealistic expectations placed on him when it was announced at the time of the draft that he was going to be competing for the starting left guard spot on the Jets' line.
He was literally plucked out of the hallways of Stamford High as a sophomore, not long after moving to the city from Haiti, having never played the sport, and then emerged as a promising but raw project following his meteoric rise at the University of Massachusetts.
Ducasse was deactivated for a number of games by the Jets, not an uncommon position for a rookie on the offensive line, one with a larger learning curve than players from more prestigious college programs.
"I thought everything was pretty good," Ducasse said. "I tried to get better and I think I did. Going into camp I struggled a little bit. I battled for the left guard spot and it didn't work out that well for me. This season I didn't get to play too much, but the veterans helped me a lot, and I spent a lot of time on film work and paying attention to the older guys. I think I needed the time to get better."
Bill Callahan, the Jets' well-regarded offensive line coach, said there was no reason to think Ducasse will not eventually live up to the expectations that prompted the team to draft him so high.
"Vlad progressed at about the same rate as most rookies do around the league in their first year," Callahan said. "Clearly with all the new techniques and calls he has been exposed to, it will make him into the player we believe he can be."
Callahan said circumstances this season may prove to expedite his development.
"Interestingly enough, he was forced to learn just about every position across the board with the exception of center," Callahan said. "So his exposure to those areas has really allowed him to learn the game a little differently than most rookies."
Ducasse's exposure to the NFL did not just take place on the field. As laconic as his head coach, Rex Ryan, is boisterous, Ducasse got a taste of being part of a spotlight he would just assume avoid.
"I never paid attention to all the other stuff," Ducasse said. "I just was concerned with winning games. (Ryan) is fun. He just makes the environment fun. I just feel when you play in a fun environment, you play your best and bring your A game."
Ducasse, who lives in New Jersey, is spending the offseason working on finishing his degree at UMass by taking online courses. He will be in Stamford Thursday night to attend a fundraiser for his former teammate, Jamel Sawyer, who has been paralyzed since contracting MRSA, a virulent form of staph infection.
The talk is that the Jets plan to move Ducasse to right tackle.
"We're just looking forward to seeing him continue his progress and compete for a starting role in training camp," Callahan said.
On that front, Ducasse and the Jets are on the same page.
"That's my goal, to try and get more playing time my second year," Ducasse said. "That's definitely my goal."
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