Calvin Pace belongs in New York City and he knows it.
Pace finally feels comfortable, at home in the big city after being born in Detroit, growing up in Georgia, playing college ball in North Carolina and spending four years of his professional career in Arizona.
Now he is home.
Pace loves the big city. He is just a metropolitan type of guy. One of his favorite hobbies is food and going out to some of New York's most glamorous restaurants.
Pace's favorite eatery is Per Se owned by superstar chef, Thomas Keller, and features lengthy tasting menus at $275 a seat. Single dinners run upwards of $50.
Midwestern Meat and Potatoes? Southern Chicken and Waffles? Southwestern Fajitas?
Not a chance...
Try Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster, Yukon Gold Potato Fondant, Caramelized Cipollini Onion, Scallion Emincée and Red Beet Marmalade with Smoked Soubise.
In addition, Pace loves finding new and exciting places to check out his biggest vice, Asian food: Chinese, Japanese, or Indian.
So, should Jets fans expect Calvin Pace to show up at camp looking more like Kris Jenkins?
"I'm just one of those lucky guys I don't gain weight easily so I can afford to be a foodie."
It's a good thing, because Pace loves going home after a great meal and firing up his own kitchen to try to recreate what he just ate.
It isn't just the food that Pace loves about New York.
He loves the New York Jets as well, especially some of the new additions that will be wearing green this season.
"It's been great having (Jason Taylor) around so far. It's crazy playing with someone you look up to. He's the type of guy who made it fashionable for a guy like me (6'4", 270) to play linebacker. His presence is going to help me."
Pace also says that he hasn't talked a lot of football with Taylor yet, saving that for training camp.
He also likes other additions, calling Kyle Wilson a "great draft pick" and that the Jets were "lucky to get him where they did." He loves having Antonio Cromartie around saying: "you can't have enough cover guys."
Pace knows that opposing quarterbacks will need to spend more time with the ball in their hands if receivers are covered.
That makes him very happy.
It doesn't matter who is on the field for the Jets. Pace says the team "needs to finish games better." If they want to win games.
"It doesn't matter if you play 58 good minutes, you can't let yourself get beat at the end of games."
This season, a decent amount of pressure will fall on the Jets and their media-friendly coach of the year, Rex Ryan. The Jets made the playoffs in 2009 and have added a sizable amount of talent and a few big names. Any step back will ignite the infamous New York Media.
Asked to provide his best Rex Ryan story, Pace took an extra minute to think and chuckled.
"Aw man, I gotta think about this one because a lot of the good stories are x-rated."
Pace went on to tell a story about an ice breaker that Ryan introduced for the players which was a modified version of "Jeopardy," asking members of the team trivia questions about their teammates. One of the better categories was "baby pictures."
Somehow, Ryan had acquired a baby picture of Jets center Nick Mangold. Clad in a German-style outfit complete with lederhosen and garter socks.
Pace says that Ryan loves to keep things loose and usually makes himself the butt of many jokes. It worked for the Jets last year and hasn't compromised the team's ability to prepare for and win games.
The other question that really got Pace laughing was when it was asked if he had a hard time leaving Arizona. Meaning no disrespect, Pace said:
"Ha, no, not hard at all. My time was up there. They had some other things to take care of and I was very happy to come to New York...I just want to thank Mike Tannenbaum every day, thank him face to face, for taking a guy who wasn't a household name and bringing me to New York."
Pace is very cognizant of the fact that 2011 brings a lot of uncertainty in the football world. He is thankful of team reps like Brandon Moore and Tony Richardson who spend a lot of their free time staying abreast of issues of the labor negotiations and keeping the team involved.
"It's just unfortunate man, I mean, what are people supposed to do if there isn't football? Football isn't just the players. It's the people working in the stadiums, restaurants, driving cabs. A lot of people are going to suffer."
Pace blames both sides and says everyone needs to "put aside greed," and get a deal done. However, he also makes it clear that he doesn't believe players are being too demanding.
"When you break it down, people come to see the players play. No one comes to see Jerry Jones or Arthur Blank. Why would players take less from a sport that isn't suffering, that is making lots of money. Players just want to be treated fairly. Don't let these owners make you think that they're losing money."
It is important, Pace believes, that people form their own opinions and do their own research. This is an important issue and people and the media need to talk about it more, in order to put pressure on both sides to come together.
"The game is never going to be the same after a lockout."
Unlike many of his teammates, Pace doesn't plan on taking up other work during a possible lockout, but he is continuing to plan on life after football, doing internships and working with charities to improve the lives of others.
"Football isn't life." Pace says, not sure exactly what he wants to do at the end of his career. He hopes to play seven or eight more years. After that, he knows he wants to spend time with his family and right now couldn't imagine coaching or refereeing and traveling most of the year.
In the meantime, Pace wants no part of switching teams again. He hopes to retire a New York Jet. Taking time again to thank the team for bringing him in and the team and media for accepting him so quickly.
Asked to give one more statement to tell fans what Calvin Pace is all about, he said.
"Tell fans that Calvin Pace is humble, hungry, and always ready to try and get better and win the big one, the big trophy, for you guys."
It's clear a good meal isn't the only thing Calvin Pace is hungry for.
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