This column is my way of reminiscing and perhaps educating a reader or two about some defensive backs that may have been forgotten by history or underrated. And I’ll do it by sharing some of the football cards I’ve picked up in my new hobby of replicating the card collection I had as a kid.
Today’s feature: Aaron Glenn, CB, New York Jets (Donruss 1997)
Every defensive back knows the deal. When you operate on the fringes of the world’s TV screens — literally and figuratively outside of the scope of the majority of the audience — your times in the spotlight are rare. You become a household name either by making big plays, or by having big plays made against you, and one big play on a very big stage can, for better or worse, become the signature moment of your career. That’s just how it is.
For retired NFL cornerback Aaron Glenn, that means a resume which includes three Pro Bowl and three All-Pro selections, 41 interceptions and six pick-sixes over 15 seasons with the Jets, Texans, Cowboys, Jaguars and Saints is to many football fans headlined by the one time Glenn got burned by Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino on the famous fake-spike play.
It was on Nov. 27, 1994, when Glenn and the Jets hosted Marino and the Dolphins at Giants Stadium with both teams fighting for AFC East supremacy. It was, at the time, the largest home crowd in Jets history.
Late in the fourth quarter, New York was hanging on to a 24-21 lead, but Marino had the ball. With about 30 seconds to go and the clock running, the Dolphins had made it to the Jets’ eight-yard line. Marino came up to the line indicating he was going to spike the ball to stop the clock, but instead he took the snap and whipped a bullet to receiver Mark Ingram, who had snuck into the end zone.
Glenn was supposed to be guarding Ingram. But he appeared to believe (like most people in the stadium) that Marino was spiking the ball, and at the pro level, that half-second lapse in focus created all the space Miami needed to score.
The Dolphins won the game and went on to win the division, while the loss began a season-ending five-game skid for the Jets that landed them in last place.
Glenn was just a rookie then, a first-round pick out of Texas A&M who’d earned a starting job in the secondary alongside veterans James Hasty, Brian Washington and Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott.
Glenn got better. In 1996, in fact, he tuned the tables on Marino when he intercepted the QB during a Jets-Dolphins game and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown — still a New York franchise record for the longest interception return. The next season Glenn made the first of back-to-back Pro Bowls with the Jets. (His third Pro Bowl nod came as a member of the Texans.) During his career he’d pick off the likes of Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Drew Bledsoe, among others. He would stick the best receivers the league had to offer.
But any time an NFL quarterback caught a defense sleeping, or any time the Jets and Dolphins hooked up for a relevant game, or any time a TV outlet just wanted to run something on the legendary Marino, there was that clip again of Glenn giving up the TD on the fake-spike pass.
The play has been brought back to life again in 2014 — its 20-year anniversary party conveniently kicked off last week when Packers superstar Aaron Rodgers used a fake spike during a game-winning, fourth-quarter drive against the Dolphins. And now it seems Rodgers’ play cannot be mentioned without Marino’s play being mentioned, which means the replay of Rodgers’ play cannot be shown without showing Marino’s play again … which means Aaron Glenn might very well be somewhere on your TV right at this moment getting beat for an eight-yard touchdown by Marino’s clever move.
That shouldn’t be Glenn’s legacy. And hopefully it isn’t, and it turns out I’m just exaggerating because I’ve seen the Marino play a few too many times recently due to Rodgers’ re-enactment. Hopefully, Glenn is ultimately remembered as a 5-foot-9 corner who thrived in a league with increasingly taller receivers while being among the best at his position during his prime.
Since his retirement in 2010, Glenn has stayed in the sport. He was the general manager of the Houston Stallions of the indoor Texas Lone Star Football League. Then he was a scout for the Jets. Currently, he is an assistant DBs coach for the Browns.