Jets Dylan Donahue Is A Story Of Redemption

Not too long ago, Dylan Donahue was at a life crossroad. Struggling with trying to find a common ground between his academics and social life, Donahue left Montana Western University and began working for his father Mitch’s roofing company.

Still, Donahue remained determined to pursue his dream. He joined the football team at Palomar Junior college in San Diego, and then transferred to West Georgia where his crossroad became an eventual smooth highway to the NFL.

This Sunday, Donahue will take the field in Buffalo as a backup linebacker/pass rusher for the Jets. However, a strong sense of confidence and determination kept his fire fueled throughout his journey.

“I knew after my last two years in college that I could get here,” said Donahue, the Jets’ fifth-round pick who was drafted as a linebacker/passrusher after being named the 2016 Gulf Coast South Player-of-the-Year with 67 tackles and 13.5 sacks mainly as a defensive end. “I feel like if I played at a D-I school, I would have been in the first, second round. I have no doubt in my mind actually about that.”

Donahue quickly made his presence felt in Jets’ camp with a reckless abandoned style-of-play on the defensive side of the ball as well as on special teams. He missed the opening preseason game with a shoulder injury, but he increased his playtime over the next three games, making a start with other starters in the finale. Donahue finished the preseason with four tackles and a half sack.

The 6-3, 248-pounder – whose father played four seasons in the NFL –also forged a special bond with Jets’ linebacker coach Kevin Greene. The elder Donahue played against Greene during his career from 1991-94.

“He’s a wild man,” said Kevin Greene, whose own brand of intensity propelled a Hall of Fame career that saw him record 114 sacks. “I don’t have a problem putting Dylan in there and letting him get out there and swim a little bit. He’s a rookie. … I know we’re going to have growing pains with young kids. I know that. Coach (Todd Bowles) knows that. But nevertheless we’ve got to get him in there and baptism kind of by fire.

“He had a hunter’s heart and you have to hunt the quarterback.”

Greene worked with Donahue to improve his pass-rushing style from elementary to advance.

“You have to think of the school he came from, a D-II in West Georgia doing one thing the whole time, which is hand in the dirt,” Greene said of Donahue. “Now he’s in a two-point staggered stance and his eyes have to look at all five eligible [receivers] and understand where they’re aligning and how that equates to his job and anticipate motions and shifts and how his job will change. So he really has done remarkably well as far as transitions from just a down in the dirt kind of guy to a two-point stand-up stance outside backer. So he’s really come a long way.”

Donahue certainly has been appreciative of the connection with Greene.

“He knows the position better than anyone I have ever spoken to,” said Donahue. “He makes it simple and makes sense of everything. He has been the perfect coach for me.’

“The two-point stance has helped me disguise things better. I wasn’t used to it, but I adapted pretty quickly. Now, I know I can play both sides and be effective. I normally put one hand down and went from there.

“It has really been a cool experience. I felt more settled after the second game. I never got into pass coverage that much before, and I had to pass coverage before and I had to recognize it better. I figured out my role on the team.”

Donahue learned how to adjust his drive and intensity as well as adapting to special teams.

“In camp, I had to learn how to even everything out,” he stated. “I had to be able to differentiate when to use my motor and take it easy.

“I learned that if I make a mistake and I’m going 100 miles per hour, I had to move on and not dwell on it. Camp was a business and I got a better feeling from it every week.

“I figure out that I just had to be myself.”

Donahue admits life around the greater New York City area can be challenging, but it is where he had achieved the ultimate goal in spite of some f life’s shortcomings.

“The route I had to take caused me to never give up,” he stressed. “I could have given up at any point, just like the rest of my friends and my teammates that gave up at some point along the road,” Donahue said. “I just decided to keep going. And I think that’s what I can bring to people on this team.

“I’m one of those guys that are never going to stop.”

About the Author

Jeff Moeller

Jeff Moeller has been covering the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and college football and basketball as well as high school sports on a national and local scene for the past 39 years. He has been a Jets and Giants beat reporter for the past 13 years.

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