Ty Law was impressed by the aggressiveness and athletic ability of Darrelle Revis right away. And he hadn't yet seen him on a football field.
The first time Law, a cornerback for the Kansas City Chiefs, saw Revis play anything, it was basketball. That's the sport, it turns out, that the football products of tradition-laden Aliquippa, Pa., use to judge each other. In the hometown of Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, Sean Gilbert and, more recently, Law and Revis, people are too busy playing football to watch others play football. Hoops is the way to measure each other.
"A lot of it starts on the basketball court because that is where we get to compete against each other in a different way," Law said. "Being that everyone is off playing football, once you get to the pros you don't get the opportunity to see each other. But during the offseason everyone is back at home, working out, running and playing basketball."
Well, Aliquippa is also the home of Pistol Pete Maravich.
But on Sunday, the Pittsburgh suburb might as well be renamed Cornerback U.S.A. with both Law and Revis, the Jets rookie, playing on the same NFL field.
Law, who has been in the league for 13 years and was good friends with Gilbert, Revis' uncle, said he expects great things from Revis.
"He's an all-around corner," Law said. "You can't label him as a 'cover guy' or a 'tackler,' he can do it all. As he gets more mature in the game and as he learns to pick up on some little nuances throughout, you are looking at an All-Pro."
To that end, Law has spent the season peppering Revis with little voicemail tidbits, advice he's picked up throughout his career on covering the likes of Randy Moss or Terrell Owens.
As for the Aliquippa hierarchy, the names Ditka and Dorsett still are at the top of the heap. But Law seemed to think there is room for a few more in the western Pennsylvania pantheon.
"Hopefully we can have that debate because I plan on playing a little longer, and Darrelle has a whole career ahead of him," Law said. "We'll see."