Eighteen million dollars without registering a single sack.
Those may very well be the eight words fans will associate with former New York Jets hybrid edge rusher and defensive lineman Vernon Gholston.
While Gholston earned roughly $18 million during his disappointing three-year NFL career, he failed to make life miserable for the opposing quarterback.
Worse, he looked completely lost on the field at times.
It was a far cry from the former Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman who once recorded 14.5 sacks in a season.
Gholston’s eye-popping performance of thirty-seven bench press reps at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2008 could’ve been a sign of future greatness.
Alas, it was anything but that.
Instead, Vernon Gholston will live in infamy as one of the biggest draft busts in New York Jets franchise history.
Vernon Gholston was born in Detroit, MI on June 5, 1986.
Gholston didn’t take the pee wee football route.
In fact, he only started playing on the gridiron as a high school sophomore at Cass Technical High School in Detroit because of his passion for weightlifting, per Bleacher Report’s Andrew Pearson.
It didn’t take long for Gholston to make an impact on the football field.
Gholston played offensive guard for the Detroit Cass Tech Technicians during his junior season.
He became an All-State selection after he excelled at protecting his quarterback and opening up holes for his running back.
Gholston made the switch to linebacker as a senior and recorded seventy-five tackles and six sacks.
Gholston may have been a late bloomer, but he already excelled on both sides of the ball.
Not only that, but he caught the eye of many big-name recruiters.
One of them was Mel Tucker.
Tucker, the current Michigan State Spartans head football coach, was the co-defensive coordinator of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the 2004 NCAA season.
He helped recruit Gholston into the storied program as a linebacker.
Tucker also helped recruit other big-name Buckeyes such as wide receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn, Jr. as well as strong safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Gholston could’ve stayed in-state with the Michigan Wolverines or the Michigan State Spartans.
To the dismay of both fan bases, he decided to play college football in Buckeye Country.
Vernon Gholston, the Detroit kid who got a late start in football, was about to make serious noise in one of the best football programs in the nation.
College Days With The Ohio State Buckeyes
When Vernon Gholston began his college days in Columbus, OH, the Ohio State Buckeyes were coming off an underwhelming 8-4 win-loss record in 2004.
Worse, they finished with a mediocre 4-4 showing in conference play.
Nonetheless, they beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the 2004 Alamo Bowl, 33-7.
With Vernon Gholston on board to shore up the defense, Buckeyes fifth-year head football coach Jim Tressel hoped for better things in 2005.
Unfortunately, Gholston’s college career with the Ohio State Buckeyes started on a sour note.
Gholston, who played defensive end, broke his hand during the season opener against the Miami (OH) Redhawks on September 3, 2005.
He suited up in just five games, barely made an impact with just one solo tackle, and eventually redshirted the remainder of the 2005 NCAA campaign.
The following year was an entirely different story.
A rejuvenated Vernon Gholston stormed out of the gates during the 2006 NCAA season.
In his first game back since redshirting the remainder of his freshman year, Gholston recorded two solo tackles.
He also sacked Northern Illinois Huskies quarterback Phil Horvath 1.5 times in first-ranked Ohio State’s 35-12 home win on September 2, 2006.
Three weeks later, Gholston had seven tackles and a sack in the Buckeyes’ 28-6 win over the 24th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions before a delirious home crowd at Ohio Stadium.
Gholston finished his memorable year with twenty-one tackles and 8.5 sacks.
DE • 2005-2007
Detroit, MI pic.twitter.com/Bgdv37JSbh
— The Salute (@BuckeyeSalute) May 15, 2020
With Gholston wreaking havoc on the Buckeyes’ defensive line, Tressel and Co. finished the regular season with an unblemished 12-0 win-loss mark.
Ohio State eventually squared off against Tim Tebow’s Florida Gators in the BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, AZ on January 8, 2007.
Gholston showed a national television audience he was a force to be reckoned with.
He finished the game with five total tackles and one sack.
However, the Gators were too much for the Buckeyes.
Five different Florida players – Tebow, Dallas Baker, Andre Caldwell, Percy Harvin, and Deshawn Wynn – scored touchdowns in the 41-14 romp over Ohio State.
Nevertheless, Vernon Gholston earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors at the end of the 2006 NCAA season.
Entering the 2007 NCAA campaign, the Buckeyes were ranked eleventh in the nation.
They also sought retribution for the loss in the previous BCS National Championship Game.
Despite the setback against Florida, Vernon Gholston would up the ante during his redshirt sophomore season in 2007.
Gholston imposed his will on the Northwestern Wildcats on September 22, 2007.
He recorded three tackles and two sacks, recovered a fumble, and ran the ball twenty-five yards into the end zone for a touchdown in the 58-7 rout of the visiting Wildcats.
On this day, Vernon Gholston was a one-man wrecking crew for Jim Tressel.
Three weeks later, Gholston had four total tackles and two sacks in a 48-3 manhandling of the Kent State Golden Flashes.
It was Ohio State’s seventh consecutive victory.
Top 5 most physically intimidating looking Buckeyes of All-Time
5.) John Simon
4.) Eddie George
3.) Andy Katzenmoyer
2.) Chase Young
1.) Vernon Gholston pic.twitter.com/GDkQJUShlZ
— Jeremiah (@SYRmotsag) June 16, 2018
Vernon Gholston destroyed another unranked opponent – the Wisconsin Badgers – just several weeks later.
He recorded four solo tackles and sacked Badgers quarterback Tyler Donovan four times in the Buckeyes’ 38-17 win at Ohio Stadium on November 3, 2007.
Gholston helped the Buckeyes finish their regular season on a high note with a 14-3 win over their hated rivals, the Michigan Wolverines, two weeks later.
Gholston’s four tackles and three sacks helped stifle the Wolverines’ offense all game long.
Michigan had a hard time moving the sticks and could only muster a solitary field goal.
With the win, Ohio State won eleven of twelve regular-season games
For the second consecutive year, they played in the BCS National Championship Game.
Les Miles’ LSU Tigers stood in their way this time around.
Unfortunately, the Tigers were just too much for Gholston and Co.
They led by twenty-one points in the third quarter and never looked back.
LSU wide receiver Richard Dickson’s two touchdown receptions led a balanced scoring attack as the Tigers cruised to a 38-24 win over Ohio State in New Orleans, LA on January 8, 2008.
In what turned out to be Vernon Gholston’s final college football game, he recorded two solo tackles and one sack.
— Nice SportCards (@NiceSportCards) September 16, 2016
He finished his stint at Ohio State with 87 total tackles, 22.5 sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery, and one defensive touchdown.
Bear in mind Vernon Gholston recorded those 22.5 sacks over a short two-year stretch from 2006 to 2007.
Gholston’s 14.5 sacks during the 2007 NCAA season also eclipsed Mike Vrabel’s previous team record of 13.
Had Gholston not left Columbus early, he would’ve set more team records at the rate he was going.
To nobody’s surprise, Gholston earned First-Team All-Big Ten and First-Team PFW All-American honors at the conclusion of the 2007 NCAA campaign.
He was also the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2007.
Now the bigger question loomed: could Vernon Gholston become successful at the NFL level?
Gang Green fans couldn’t wait to find out.
Vernon Gholston made an indelible impression on general managers, coaches, and scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, IN in February 2008.
Gholston’s thirty-seven bench press repetitions tied the Michigan Wolverines’ Jake Long for the most among rookie defensive linemen, per the Ohio State Buckeyes’ official athletics website.
Gholston’s 35.5-inch vertical leap, 10-foot, five-inch broad jump, and 4.67-second 40-yard dash were also some of the best showings among defensive linemen.
His stellar performance at the combine placed him high on the New York Jets’ radar.
The Jets allowed an average of 331.9 yards per game during the 2007 NFL season.
While they didn’t have the league’s worst defense (that distinction belonged to the Detroit Lions), they finished with an atrocious 4-12 win-loss record in 2007.
It was a huge step backward from their 10-win total the season before.
Second-year Jets head coach Eric Mangini (dubbed “The Mangenius”) and Co. needed to get back on track in a big way.
Vernon Gholston could be the game-changer they were looking for.
The New York Jets made Gholston the sixth overall selection of the 2008 NFL Draft.
He became the eleventh Ohio State Buckeyes player selected in the first round in the past five years, per the team’s official athletics website.
— Freezing Cold Takes (@OldTakesExposed) April 26, 2017
When the 6’4″, 258-lb. Gholston became one of the draft’s first picks, his high school football coach at Detroit Cass Tech, Thomas Wilcher, sung his praises.
Wilcher told the Detroit Free Press’ Mark Snyder in April 2017 Gholston is the perfect example of an unheralded high school football player who made it to the pro ranks with sheer hard work and determination:
“When Vernon went that high, I said, ‘Hey, a lot of kids can turn it around in college and make it happen.'”
“Vernon came out, struggled a little bit in college and the light clicked on; he became this fantastic player, he became this great player.”
“I was so proud of him, I wanted to always let him know he was special. He set the trend, he started people going on. You can always go back and see where it started; it started with him.”
“You don’t have to come out of high school being the greatest player. But you have to believe in yourself, do what you could and make yourself the best possible player you could be. That’s what he did, Vernon. Kept going.”
Gholston, whom the Jets envisioned as a centerpiece of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s 3-4 defense, agreed to a five-year deal worth $32 million with $21 million in guaranteed money.
In that kind of defense, the linebackers take center stage.
For his part, Gholston had to make the transition from defensive end in the college game to outside linebacker in the pro ranks.
That seismic change proved to be disastrous for Vernon Gholston’s pro football career.
Gholston, who suited up mainly as a special teams player for Gang Green, failed to record a single sack in 15 games.
He managed to record just thirteen total tackles all season long.
His rookie year performance was a far cry from the defensive demon he was at Ohio State.
While the Jets won nine games during the 2008 NFL season, they missed the postseason for a second straight year.
The Jets consequently fired Mangini and replaced him with former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.
— NYJ Matt (@NYJ_Matt) July 6, 2021
As for Gholston, he was ready to make amends for the 2009 NFL campaign.
“Did I do all I wanted to do? Probably not,'” he told Lohud.com (via GangGreenNation.com) in August 2009. “But the biggest thing for me, I never look back on the past. I always look forward.”
One thing Gholston looked forward to was an opportunity to start at outside linebacker when the 2009 NFL season kicked off.
Gholston got his chance when the league suspended Calvin Pace for four games for violating its performance-enhancing drugs policy.
Through the first four weeks of the season, Gholston recorded six solo tackles.
He wound up with twelve solo tackles and seventeen total tackles for the year.
However, he still did not have a single sack on his stat sheet.
His struggles at outside linebacker continued.
Gang Green duplicated their 9-7 win-loss record from the previous season. They also ended their two-year postseason hiatus.
However, Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts ended their upset aspirations with a 30-17 win in the AFC Championship Game on January 25, 2009.
At this point in his NFL career, twenty-three-year-old Vernon Gholston had not met the New York Jets’ lofty expectations.
However, when rumors about Gholston’s inability to grasp the pro game swirled around, Mangini cut him some slack.
🚨 50 Days Until the NFL Draft 🚨
Sorry for this one … Vernon Gholston was the can’t miss pass rusher in the 2008 NFL draft. After 3 seasons with the Jets, Gholston was out of the NFL.
— NYJ Matt (@NYJ_Matt) March 3, 2020
According to Bleacher Report’s Andrew Pearson, Jets defensive players had a hard time getting accustomed to the system due to the constant changing of plays and calls week in and week out.
For his part, Gholston even reached out to New York Giants Hall-of-Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, one of the most disruptive forces the game has ever known.
Despite Gholston’s best efforts, he still wasn’t playing at a high level.
After the failed experiment at outside linebacker, the Jets reassigned Gholston to his more familiar defensive end role for the 2010 NFL season.
Gholston told espnW.com’s Jane McManus prior to the Jets’ game against his hometown Detroit Lions on November 7, 2010, he remained unfazed despite his struggles:
“Everyone got their own path. Coming into the league with a new position and everything, to say it was the easiest transition or what I wanted it to be, no.”
“But I’m always looking to the future, and I feel I’ll be successful in this league one day.”
Gholston continued to underwhelm as a Jets defensive lineman.
He recorded just twelve total tackles in nine games during the 2010 NFL season.
Gholston’s best game was a three-tackle showing in the regular-season finale against the Buffalo Bills on January 2, 2011.
It turned out to be Vernon Gholston’s final game in the National Football League.
The Jets, with Mark Sanchez under center, won eleven games and played in the AFC Championship Game for a second straight year.
Regrettably, the Pittsburgh Steelers ended their aspirations for a second Super Bowl trophy with a 24-19 win on January 23, 2011.
The New York Jets eventually released Vernon Gholston on March 2, 2011.
Gholston received a second lease on life when the Chicago Bears signed him to a contract on July 29, 2011.
It didn’t last long, though: the Bears released him just a month later.
One week before Chicago cut Gholston, he told the New York Post’s Bart Hubbuch that Rex Ryan never gave him a fair shake when he was with the Jets:
“I heard how he was perceiving me before the (2008) draft, before he knew me, and I was the same way – I wasn’t hoping for him to be (my) first coach of the Jets when I was there, either.”
“Being a first-round pick, you would have hoped for fore (of a chance).”
“Rex made a comment to me when he first came in that he thought I wasn’t liked by the guys on the team, then once he got there he saw that wasn’t the case.”
“Those perceptions kind of determine the outcome, and it’s sad to say.”
“Teams are always looking for talent, and to say I don’t have talent is a far stretch. It’s all about getting a fair shot and time in the system.”
“With the Jets, it was constant position change and coaching change. There was no stability. I never really had that with the Jets.”
Gholston also felt Ryan played favorites with former Ravens players on the Jets roster such as Bart Scott, per Hubbuch.
After a year in limbo, Gholston signed with the then-St. Louis Rams on August 22, 2012.
The Rams released him just nine days later.
Nearly four years after Gholston’s last NFL down, he announced on Twitter he earned a tryout with the then-Washington Redskins.
Nothing came out of the reported tryout.
— Jets 101 (@NY_Jets101) February 18, 2015
Vernon Gholston ended his short-lived three-year NFL career with forty-two total tackles and twenty-four solo tackles.
Here’s the most glaring stat of them all: zero sacks in forty-five games played.
That could very well be what fans will associate with Vernon Gholston whenever they see his name on various sports websites and search engines online.
Vernon Gholston is the older cousin of Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end William Gholston.
In 2014, Gholston and New Jersey lawyer Jerome Mitchell founded Anew Wellness, a health center located in Somerset, NY that aims to treat patients with mental health issues.
— Carissa Lawson (@CarissaLawson) May 21, 2015
Gholston told MyCentralJersey.com’s Laura DePrado in February 2017 Anew Wellness was his way of helping people in the community:
“Too many football players retire early because of head injuries. Football takes a toll on your body. I wanted to do something that could help people.”
“Two years out of football I met Jerome. We were coming from two different perspectives and professions, but it was natural to start Anew.”
“The biggest component at Anew is that we want to be inclusive of all treatment modalities. This includes art therapy and horticultural therapy.”
“Horticultural therapy is unique. So basic, yet so complex. It gives order to chaos. Connection where there is disconnection.”
“HT offers the flexibility of using as individual sessions, or build as an entire program. It meets the clients where they are at and allows for engagement and connection.”
Gholston currently resides in the Chatham, NJ area.