HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Vernon Gholston insists it's only a coincidence that he's wearing the No. 56 for the New York Jets.
Sure, the hulking outside linebacker is expected to add a much-needed boost to the Jets' pass rush, but he doesn't consider himself a sack-collecting savior. Still, his lofty draft status, eye-popping skills and, now, his jersey number have some hoping for a second coming of Lawrence Taylor, the Hall of Famer who terrorized quarterbacks for years with the New York Giants.
``I just thought it was a good number,'' Gholston said with a grin Friday on the first day of Jets rookie camp. ``That's all I really thought.''
Gholston, the sixth overall pick in the draft, wore No. 50 at Ohio State and would've taken that if veteran Eric Barton didn't already have it. So, it wasn't a nod to Lawrence Taylor, one of the most disruptive defensive forces in NFL history?
``No, not really,'' said Gholston, still smiling. ``I had limited options. Obviously, my No. 50 was taken, so of the numbers I had to choose from, that's the one I picked.''
For those keeping score, 15 previous players wore No. 56 for the Jets, with the last being former third-round bust Anthony Schlegel, also a former Ohio State star. New York hopes Gholston fares a whole lot better, especially given the expectations. New York had just 29 sacks last season, while Gholston set an Ohio State record with 14 despite facing double teams regularly.
``My goal is to hopefully one day be the best player I can be,'' he said. ``My immediate goal is to just help this team. I'm all about the team and being a team player. If we're all doing good, then I consider myself doing well.''
Yep, Gholston is already saying all the right things, coming across as a humble guy who'd much rather let his play do his talking. Because of his somewhat low-key approach, he was sometimes criticized for possibly lacking the fire needed to be a game-wrecking defensive player in the NFL.
``I don't worry about it too much,'' he said in the Jets' locker room, wearing a gray and red Ohio State T-shirt. ``I don't get into that. I do what I do and control what I can control. The biggest thing is to work hard and keep grinding away and hopefully I'll show 'em up.''
The numbers certainly bear that out. The 6-foot-3, 264-pound Gholston had several games last season in which he was absolutely dominant. He had four sacks against Wisconsin in November, and had three other games in which he had two or more sacks.
Coach Eric Mangini first watched tape of Gholston while walking on the treadmill shortly after the Jets' season ended.
``I remember thinking, 'This could be the sixth pick in the draft,''' Mangini recalled.
Gholston sidestepped questions about when he thinks he'll sign, and agent Ben Dogra told The Associated Press that he and the team have not yet started contract negotiations. But Gholston is here now, and he already appears to be a man among boys at rookie camp, with veins screaming out from his Popeye-like forearms and a pair of bulging biceps that might be rivaled only by those of running back Thomas Jones.
``Yeah, those are big guys,'' kicker Mike Nugent said after his former college teammate was drafted. ``That's why I've been hitting the weights this offseason, so I can look good standing near them.''
In the Jets' 3-4 defense, Gholston will be asked to stand up as a linebacker more after playing mostly from a three-point stance in college. He also played in multiple defenses, which he thinks will help him make a smooth transition.
``The situation in college was that I was primarily a defensive end, rushing the passer, but here I'll be incorporated more into the drops and moving around and making checks and calls,'' he said. ``It's something I kind of did in college, but now it's predicated as my role.''
Gholston's combination of speed - he ran a 4.56 40-yard dash - and power - he benched a Buckeyes-best 455 pounds - made the Jets think he's a perfect fit for their defense.
``It's going to be a learning curve, but that's what I liked about the things that he did at Ohio State,'' Mangini said. ``You saw him drop, you saw him have to be involved in blitz-peel and elements like that, so it's not a complete projection because we've seen those things on tape.''
After just a few hours of reviewing the playbook and finally getting out on the field again, Gholston isn't worried about learning the entire system in a day.
``I expect it to be tough; I expect a lot,'' Gholston said. ``Obviously, this is the NFL and the highest level. For me, it's about taking things one at a time, just like I did in college and let it come to me, and hopefully, I'll be a good player.''

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