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Keeping the dream alive

Andre Wadsworth hasn't made the New York Jets' roster, but he already has a nickname: "Cremation."

"One of the guys looked at me and said, 'You should have been cremated already,' " Wadsworth said with a chuckle.

Wadsworth, who signed with the Jets in March, can laugh at the notion that his career should already be dead. He hasn't played a down in six seasons and he's returning at linebacker, a position he never played in his three years with Arizona after the Cardinals made him the No. 3 overall pick in 1998 behind Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.

Wadsworth has more career knee surgeries (13) than sacks (eight). As a 50 percent owner of three Porsche dealerships in North Florida, he also figures to pay more in taxes on those earnings than he'll make with the Jets if he sticks.

But at 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, he still looks thoroughbred sleek. He is a long way from being on crutches for three months and relying on a cart to move around, as he did at the 2003 National Automobile Dealership Association conference.

"A lot of guys don't know Andre's story. When you hear it, it's pretty amazing," Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "To go through all that and still want to play when you don't have to … it's pretty inspiring."

Bryan Myers, Wadsworth's business partner who played at Ball State in the mid-1970s, understands Wadsworth's motivation.

"The desire never goes away, it never burns out," said Myers, who actually participated in three NFL training camps in the mid-80s. "The business makes you think about other things, keeps you busy, and the competitiveness of sports helps make you better. But you still think about the game, the hitting, the playing, the competing."

Wadsworth parlayed his love of the car business (he met Myers while attending Florida State) and his signing bonus from Arizona into the seeds of wealth. But playing again is so deeply engrained that he gets an odd look on his face when asked why he's trying to play again.

"To be out there and compete, to test yourself every day and be critiqued, I want that," said Wadsworth, who's married with a third child on the way. "I welcome it."

And, of course, there's the locker room, the fraternal part of the game that's like being on the set of "The Barbershop" every day.

"You can't replace what you get in the locker room. There's no place like that, just being with the guys."

Wadsworth has tried to maintain that as much as possible. He worked out at renowned trainer Brett Fisher's facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., for the past seven years, where he become more than a patient.

"I feel like I'm losing one of my best employees," Fisher said. "This is a much different relationship than just a trainer-athlete. We're really very close friends. He has an amazing ability to put himself completely into something and maintain his intensity in the face of all sorts of challenges."

Such as the time he tore an Achilles' tendon while warming up for a workout.

"It sounded like a cord snapping. … I was there once when Dr. (Richard) Steadman was looking at his knees. He asked me what they looked like and I told him, 'They look like Sugar Pops,' " Fisher said.

"But he's there all the time. He's my maître d'. It doesn't matter if you're Randy Johnson or if you're a fireman there doing rehab, the joke is that everybody knows Andre. He talks to everybody, knows their stories. … We use him in training the rookies who come in to prepare for the (NFL) draft. He's out there working with the defensive linemen. He's in the interview room prepping guys on what to say, how to present themselves. He's involved in everybody's life. It's incredible the passion he brings."

That kind of passion is persuasive. This offseason, Wadsworth and Myers went to Atlanta to secure the rights to build another Porsche dealership.

The PowerPoint presentation was so convincing that Porsche gave Wadsworth and Myers a letter of intent before they left the building.

"I've never seen that in all my years in this business," Myers said.

Now, Wadsworth just has to convince the Jets.