The nights before games were always the toughest times for Darrelle Revis.
One of the NFL's most dominant cornerbacks would lie in bed thinking about what he needed to accomplish the next day on the field. Revis would go over the game plan, the notes from his film studies, the receivers' routes and their tendencies.
Over and over until he'd fall asleep.
He'd wake up mentally prepared — and that brief anxiety would be replaced by supreme confidence.
“Restless nights, I'd say to start with,” Revis said. "Covering some of the greatest wide receivers in the game and future Hall of Famers at that time, I was probably the most nervous out of anybody on the field if I had that assignment.
“For me, it's kind of looking at yourself in the mirror and saying to yourself, ‘It’s either me or him. I just have to stand up to the challenge.' For me, I just took on the responsibility to take that assignment and try to shut him down.”
Revis did exactly that for most of his brilliant 11-year NFL career, including eight seasons over two stints with the New York Jets.
So much so, he earned the popular “Revis Island” nickname, a fitting tribute to how he'd single-handedly make many receivers disappear — lost on an island — from opponents' game plans.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime type corner,” former Jets coach Rex Ryan once said. “And that’s a fact.”
Tough to argue, and voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame made Revis a first-ballot inductee following a career during which he routinely locked down one side of the field with his air-tight coverage.
He also gave plenty of opposing offensive coordinators plenty of restless nights of their own.
“I just felt I had the ability and skill set and the coaching staff who believed in me that I had the ability to shut them down,” Revis said.
That was perhaps most evident during the 2009 season, when Revis had arguably the greatest year at his position.
Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, Andre Johnson, Steve Smith, Terrell Owens, Reggie Wayne and Roddy White were all non-factors against the Jets that season — because they couldn't shake Revis.
“I shouldn’t have even suited up,” Wayne said after having just a 1-yard catch in Indianapolis' playoff loss to New York that season.
Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson won the AP Defensive Player of the Year award that year, but Ryan insisted Revis should've been the choice after having “the best year a corner has ever had.”
Revis had six interceptions and set an NFL record that still stands with 31 passes defensed that season. He never really came close to matching those marks in any season the rest of his career — because teams simply stopped throwing his way.
That was the ultimate sign of respect.
“It was a very comforting thing as a player that we'd have a guy that can take away the greatest weapon of the other team's offensive players,” former Jets center and long-time teammate Nick Mangold said. “So it was very much like a security blanket, like, we've got him, so we’re good.”
Revis was drafted by the Jets out of the University of Pittsburgh with the 14th overall pick in 2007 when they traded up 11 spots to add a player they believed could change their defense. And he certainly delivered, making an instant impact under coach Eric Mangini before thriving as the heart of Ryan's defense.
“One of the highlights for me is just being drafted,” Revis said. “Just fulfilling that dream. Just the hills I had to run at an incline, the abs, the pushups, the overtime, just put into everything to try to even dare myself to be one of the best or one of the greatest or amount to be somewhat of the next Deion Sanders, in a way.”
The comparisons quickly became a regular thing for Revis, whose abilities were often measured up against the likes of Sanders, Woodson, Rod Woodson, Ty Law, Champ Bailey and Mel Blount.
Until the debates began about whether Revis was actually the best cornerback ever.
That's subjective, of course, with some pointing out Revis' relatively short period of greatness. A knee injury wiped out his 2012 season and a contract dispute — he had a few of those, helping set the market for cornerbacks — ended with him being traded to Tampa Bay the following offseason.
Revis won a Super Bowl the next year with New England, irking Jets fans, but he returned to New York in 2015 and played two more seasons for his original team. After a short stint with Kansas City in 2017, Revis retired. He was inducted into the Jets' ring of honor last year.
His playing legacy came with his performance in games, but he built a reputation for striving to be great with his intense approach during practice. Revis would get on teammates who weren't giving their all, and his goal was to not give up a catch to anyone.
And if he did, Revis would be ticked off. About catches that didn't even count — to everyone other than Revis.
“Every practice, to him, was a game,” Mangold said. “So he was going out there and no one was going to catch a ball on him. It was the result of his competitive nature. He was always working to win.”