FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Tre McBride realizes that few New York Jets fans knew his name as recently as just a few weeks ago. And the speedy wide receiver is OK with that.
He considers himself an underdog, a guy who has been mostly overlooked during a brief NFL career that has included stops with Tennessee and Chicago.
“I feel like any competitor would feel that way about themselves if they were kind of going through the things a roster bubble guy like myself goes through,” McBride said after a recent practice. “I’m not the only one who does and I’m not the only one who’ll ever go through this, so I don’t feel sorry for myself or anything.”
No need. Those days of anonymity might be over.
McBride has had an impressive training camp with the Jets, running with the starting offense at times while making a strong push to make the team’s opening-day roster.
“Yeah, I feel like I have a little chip on my shoulder and maybe I feel like I’m underrated,” McBride said. “But that’s fine. That’s why I’m out here with this opportunity, to show people that I can play ball at the highest level.”
The 25-year-old McBride is part of a receiving corps that includes Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Quincy Enunwa and Terrelle Pryor. Beyond those four, it’s unclear how many receivers will be kept among the remaining seven.
ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen and Charone Peake are recent draft picks, while Andre Roberts is a veteran who provides versatility on special teams as a returner. There’s also Charles Johnson and Lucky Whitehead, once-promising youngsters who are coming off injuries.
And then, there’s McBride, who was signed to the Jets’ practice squad last December after being waived by the Bears.
“They are all pretty solid,” coach Todd Bowles said. “That’s going to be a tough group when final cuts come down because all of them can play and all of them will probably play somewhere in this league. If we do let some go, they’ll probably get picked up.”
McBride has four catches for 40 yards in the first two preseason games, and has really impressed coaches throughout the offseason and training camp.
“I’d say overall, I think I’ve taken advantage of the opportunities I’ve been given,” McBride said. “I think most important is that, for the most part, it’s been really consistent.”
McBride knows he has two more preseason games to further impress, including Friday night against the Giants.
Bowles said he expects his starters to play a minimum of two quarters in the game. With Enunwa and Pryor uncertain to play as they continue to work back from injuries, McBride could have a significant role.
“Anything can happen,” he said. “I’ve been surprised before. I would like to believe that they’ve put me out with the 1s (starters) for a reason, not just because. That’s really what I have to go off of, that they trust me enough to be in there with the No. 1 quarterback and the No. 1 guys out there and that’s what I’m here to do, make some plays with the top guys.”
McBride — whose given name is Douglas III — grew up in a military family that was often on the move. His father, Doug Jr., is a brigadier general in the U.S. Army and was stationed in places such as Hawaii, Virginia, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas and Maryland.
Once the family got to Georgia, Tre’s mother Pamela and sister Taylor settled there with him — even after Doug Jr. was sent to his next post — so they could establish some roots.
“Adapting to new environments and the way things are in the area I’m in is something that, at this point, comes natural to me,” McBride said.
He was a three-sport star at Ola High School in McDonough, Georgia, while playing on the football team as well as the basketball and track and field squads. From there he went on to play football at the College of William and Mary and was a starter by his sophomore season. He finished second in school history with 196 career receptions and was fifth with 2,653 yards receiving.
McBride’s stock for the 2015 draft rose after he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at the NFL combine, with some expecting him to be taken as high as the third round. Six rounds came and went, though, before Tennessee took him in the seventh as the 245th player chosen.
McBride spent most of his first two NFL seasons bouncing back and forth between the Titans’ practice squad, the active roster and waivers. After two catches in two years, McBride was among Tennessee’s final cuts last September. He was claimed by Chicago and signed to the Bears’ practice squad before being promoted and having eight catches for 144 yards in eight games — but was then waived and signed by the Jets.
“I’ve had great camps every year I’ve been in the league,” he said. “When I get on the field and I get an opportunity, I can play ball. Maybe the numbers don’t work out, maybe I’m not their guy, whoever it is, but it’s never because I didn’t show that I could play.”
McBride might stick around this time — and his name is certainly catching on with Jets fans.
“I’m past everything that’s happened in the past, except for what’s going on right now,” McBride said. “I’m kind of focusing on this opportunity and making the most of it.”