The irony is not lost on Neville Hewitt.
The 26-year-old journeyman inside linebacker is playing for Jets coach Adam Gase, who happened to have released him from the Dolphins in 2017 and now happens to need him to take over for injured starter Avery Williamson.
“It’s crazy how life works out,’’ Hewitt told The Post after practice Tuesday. “It’s cool to get an opportunity to play again. When I was in Miami, that was my first time I ever got cut in my life. It was a learning experience, and at the same time I’m blessed to have another opportunity to still play this game.’’
Gase and the Dolphins released Hewitt essentially because of a neck injury the team doctors didn’t believe was going to heal properly. The Jets signed him off the street, and Hewitt played primarily on special teams last season until he was forced into duty as a starter — replacing Darron Lee for the final four games of the season with Lee serving a suspension.
Hewitt responded with 27 tackles, 1.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries in those four starts.
After the Jets hired Gase, he met up with Hewitt this offseason and delivered a message to his former and current player.
“He pretty much told me I played my ass off last year, and how excited he is for us to be on the same team again,’’ Hewitt said.
Nothing is set in stone, of course, but with Williamson lost for the season with a torn ACL suffered Thursday night in Atlanta, Hewitt is the next man up.
“It hurt everybody when Avery went down,’’ Hewitt said. “No matter the opportunity given, it bothered all of us that somebody that worked that hard unfortunately got hurt in a preseason game.’’
Still, as cold as the world of sports can be, the opportunity is here now for Hewitt to establish himself as a full-time starter for the first time in his five NFL seasons. He’s started 11 NFL games.
“This is a big opportunity for me,’’ Hewitt said. “This whole experience — being released in Miami and getting another opportunity to play here — kind of taught me how to be a pro, do all the little things I need to do, and it continued to prepare [me] for the next opportunity that’s given and take advantage of it.’’
Hewitt said his four-game starting stint last season “just showed that I was accountable when I took advantage of the opportunity I had.’’
He recalled the harrowing moments in 2017 after he suffered his neck and shoulder injury while hitting a running back in Dolphins practice.
“Some of the moments, like just going to see the doctor, was like a movie scene when you’re waiting to see what he’s going to say — can you still play football again?’’ he said. “The injury gave me a different appreciation for the game. It can be taken away at any moment. I’ve been playing this game since I was 10. To continue to be able to play again … I’m just trying to take advantage and try to be accountable.’’
When the subject of becoming a regular starter was brought up, Hewitt refused to tease himself by thinking too far ahead. His past — a neck injury in college, with surgery before his senior season at Marshall, then the neck injury in Miami — has taught him how precious every moment is.
“I can’t look too far into what might happen,’’ Hewitt said. “You get your hopes up and something else happens and you’re [ticked] off, mad at the world. I just try to get better every day and help this team win. That’s a dream of mine. Everyone wants to start. Everyone wants to make that big play to help the team win. But one day at a time.’’
Yes, that’s the most often-used cliché in sports, but based on Hewitt’s past, it fits.