Gastineau, Mark

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Mark Gastineau
Marcus Dell Gastineau is a former five time Pro Bowler defensive end for the New York Jets from 1979 to 1988.


Background and college

Born November 20, 1956 in Ardmore, Oklahoma. When he was seven his family moved to the town of Springerville, Arizona where he played high school football for the Round Valley Elks. He entered Eastern Arizona Junior College in 1975 and earned All-America honors in his first season. He then transferred to Arizona State. After one miserable season, he transferred again, this time to East Central University, an NAIA school in Ada, Okla., where he had 27 quarterback sacks in his college career. He became that school's first-ever draft pick. His break came when he was a late addition at the 1979 Senior Bowl, where the Jets coaching staff was in charge of the North team. Gastineau saw it as an opportunity and emerged as the North's outstanding defensive lineman.

NFL Career

Gastineau was taken by the Jets with the thirteenth pick of the second round (41st overall) in the 1979 NFL Draft. In New York, Gastineau was a part of the New York Sack Exchange, the Jets defensive line that included Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam. Gastineau made the Pro Bowl five straight seasons (1981-85) and finished his 10-year career with 107.5 sacks, the Jets all-time record.

In 1979 Gastineau started only one game for the Jets as a rookie; he was primarily used on passing downs and registered only two sacks. He established his presence in 1980, when he led the team with 11½ sacks and a career-high 122 quarterback pressures. Then came his first Pro Bowl season as Gastineau recorded 20 sacks in 1981 and finished second to Klecko in UPI's defensive player of the year balloting.

The New York Sack Exchange
An injury to Klecko in 1982 resulted in Gastineau often being double-teamed, and that showed in Gastineau's sack total: He finished with only six in nine games in the strike-shortened season.

In 1983 Gastineau and quarterback Ken O'Brien were arrested and charged with assault for a brawl that left a patron with a broken nose at Studio 54 in Manhattan. Gastineau, who claimed he was trying to break up the fight, was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to 90 hours of community service. He still led the NFL in sacks. Gastineau's career reached its high point in 1984, when his record-setting 22 sacks, 69 tackles and one fumble recovery for a touchdown earned him NFL defensive player of the year honors. He also was voted MVP of the Pro Bowl after recording four sacks, a safety and seven tackles. The record would last until Brett Favre and Michael Strahan managed to arrange a sack for Strahan in 2001. The 1985 season was one of transition. New defensive coordinator [{Carson, Bud|Bud Carson]] installed a 3-4 defense and moved Gastineau from left defensive end to right defensive end, although he did move him around to allow for mismatches. Gastineau broke his hand early in that season but he still managed to finish second in the AFC with 13½ sacks.

The 1986 season was where it began to go wrong, though. An abdominal/groin injury ended Gastineau's consecutive games streak at 108. He played only 10 games and had just two sacks. Then came the moment that sticks in the mid of Jets fans. In the divisional game against Cleveland the Jets seemed on their way to the AFC Championship game as they led the Browns by 10 points with less than four minutes remaining. Then Gastineau's late hit on quarterback Bernie Kosar kept alive a Cleveland touchdown drive that preceded a late field goal. The Jets lost in the second quarter of overtime and Gastineau was fined $2,500 by the NFL for the hit on Kosar. Then in 1987 during the players' strike, Gastineau crossed the picket lines. Teammates spit on Gastineau's car as he tried to pass through their picket. He left the car swinging and claimed offensive lineman Guy Bingham had spit at him. On the field, Gastineau was unproductive, managing only 4½ sacks. Six weeks after the end of the season, Gastineau announced his engagement to Brigitte Nielsen, the former husband of Sylvester Stallone, despite still being maried to his wife, Lisa. They had been separated since 1986, but their divorce wouldn't become final until 1991.

1988 began with what seemed to be a revitalised Gastineau, but the biggest surprise was coming. Seven weeks into the 1988 season, Gastineau was leading the AFC with seven sacks when he stunned teammates by announcing his retirement; he said he wanted to spend more time with Nielsen, whom he feared had uterine cancer. It proved to be a false alarm. Years later, Gastineau admitted another reason he quit was that he was concerned that he would fail another drug test and that the public would learn he used anabolic steroids.


Gastineau was among the most talented and honored defensive linemen of his era. He was 2nd Team All-Pro in 1981 as well as being consensus All-AFC. He was and First Team All-Pro in 1982, 83, 84, and 85 and was consensus All-AFC in each of those years. In 1982 he was voted the NFL Defensive Player of the Year by NEA (and awarded the George S. Halas Trophy). In 1983 he totaled 19 sacks to lead the NFL for the first time. (In 1981 sacks were unofficial, but Gastineau's 20 sacks trailed Klecko by only 1/2 a sack) In 1984 he was voted the UPI AFC Defensive Player of the Year and was also selected the MVP of that season's Pro Bowl. In 1985 he was voted All-pro by the NEA. In 1986 he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated along side fellow star Lawrence Taylor.

Sack Dance

Gastineau was nationally famous for doing his signature "Sack Dance" after sacking an opposing quarterback. However, he had to stop when the NFL declared it "unsportsman like taunting" in March 1984 and began fining players for it. The ban on the Sack Dance stemmed from a 1983 game against the Los Angeles Rams, when Gastineau and Rams Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jackie Slater got into a fight following a Gastineau sack of Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo.

After the NFL

Gastineau tried a comeback, in the Canadian Football League in 1990. He signed a two-year contract with the British Columbia Lions, but got injured and was released after only four games. In 1991, Gastineau began a career in boxing, compiling a 15-2 record before retiring in 1996. His first fight against Derrick Dukes produced a first-round knockout. Dukes, a professional wrestler, later admitted he took a dive. TV newsmagazine show 60 Minutes interviewed several others that fought Gastineau and were told to take dives to make Gastineau look good. His career ended in 1996 when he lost to another former football player, Alonzo Highsmith. His record in boxing was fifteen wins, two losses, and one no-contest. On Aug. 25, 1998, was in trouble with the law again, after an incident with his then girlfriend Patty Schorr, whom Gastineau would marry a month later. She told police that Gastineau beat, choked and threatened to crush her with a coffee table. Schorr didn't file any charges, but Gastineau was sentenced to three years probation in January 1999. After repeatedly violating his probation he spent 11 months on Rikers Island. In the wake of his beating of Schorr, Gastineau said he found religion. He was released from prison in July 2001 and five months later moved to suburban Phoenix to work for his brother-in-law, a vice president for a chain of health clubs. In recent times, Gastineau has said he has become a changed person and hopes to have put his turbulent past behind him.

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