Former Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau has traded his sack dance for the rhythmic clapping and swaying of his church choir.
Tonight, Gastineau, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a three-time member of the All-Pro team, will be inducted into the Jets’ Ring of Honor along with wide receiver Wesley Walker.
But Gastineau is far from the flamboyant, eye-catching terror who scared NFL quarterbacks during his 10-year NFL career beginning in 1979. Now, he’s a quiet family man who is enjoying retirement, flies a remote control airplane in his backyard and sings in the choir at Times Square Church. He’s a born-again Christian who has sworn off his old lifestyle.
“As far as the honor, it’s incredible,” Gastineau said in a call with the New York media. “I was taken back and I just give the Lord all the glory because my life has changed and the Ring of Honor is just one of the changes that I’m so happy about, so elated about.”
Gastineau was married to model Lisa Gastineau and dated model Brigitte Nielsen in the 1980s. But he also spent 11 months in Rikers Island in 2000 stemming from a parole violation.
Far from the New York City nightlife he once found so enthralling, Gastineau is now low key, content and sober after a battle with drug addiction. He’s committed to his wife and his faith with nearly every reference to his life accompanied by either a “Hallelujah” or a mention of a blessing from the Lord.
When asked about the 22 sacks in 1984, a regular-season record that stood until the 2002 season, Gastineau said that record meant nothing compared to being written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life,” a Christian reference to the logof believers kept in heaven.
It is quite a change from the man who wildly celebrated sacks with his arms flailing and then spent his hours away from the game in the arms of a model, dancing the night away.
“I got a hang nail that’s bothering me, but I’ve got to go and get a manicure every once in a while,” Gastineau joked. “No ,I’m very fortunate and I shouldn’t joke about that because my health is up and I might not run a 4.5 40 — if I did run a 40, it might be all day long.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.