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Long Island Embraces Rex, Jets on Family Night

Posted Aug 21, 2014

11,000-Plus Come to Hofstra's Shuart Stadium for Green & White Walkthrough Practice

Long Island's longtime fans of the Green & White, many with green-and-white-clad children in tow, turned out to welcome the Jets back to their roots this evening.

The event was Jets Family Night presented by JetBlue. The team held a practice/walkthrough at James Shuart Stadium — across Hempstead Turnpike from the building once known as Weeb Ewbank Hall, with the white practice bubble inflated by the Jets back in the late Nineties still visible above the stadium's north stands.

And more than 11,000 fans were in attendance to watch the team practice in pleasant temperatures under partly cloudy skies one night before the Jets take on the Giants for the 46th consecutive summer at MetLife Stadium.

"It's great to come out here and see so many fans. It's fantastic," head coach Rex Ryan told reporters as the players fanned out to sign autographs around the stadium. "It brings me back to when I was a kid visiting my dad, when I'd come up and watch him at practice. I think when they came to Hofstra it was really the first time they moved here. It's always great to come back here."

Indeed, 1968 was the start of many new directions in franchise history. The Jets moved their base of operations to Hofstra that year. Ewbank hired Buddy Ryan, Rex's dad, to coach his defensive line that year. And by the end of that season, the Jets were ready to rock the football world in Super Bowl III.

Today the team buses arrived a little late due to weekday afternoon traffic, at 5:30 p.m. Twenty minutes later the players came out of the locker room and ran through their new inflatable Aircraft Carrier tunnel and received warm applause from the fans.

The practice was a homecoming of sorts for two starters on the offensive line. Willie Colon attended Hofstra, where he spent much of his time playing right tackle and in fact played his way into being a fourth-round draft pick of the Steelers — the highest selection of any active NFL player who went to Hofstra.

“It’s fun. It brought back some old memories,” he said. “It’s an honor to be back, especially back with the guys.”

Tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who grew up in Freeport, NY, located 10 minutes from the stadium, said he was excited to return to Long Island.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been back, but it’s been good, man,” he said. “It’s a feeling of nostalgia, but it’s good that we had a strong showing of fans to let us know that we’re still loved out here. It’s always good to be back home.”

Besides watching the light practice that lasted about 80 minutes, the fans were entertained by appearances from Jets alumni Wesley Walker, Marty Lyons, Greg Buttle, Kenny Schroy and Earl Christy.

The New York Jets Flight Crew Cheerleaders and the Aviators Drumline both performed. The event also featured Jets Fest, inflatable rides, food, music, face-painting and Jets Shop. After the practice, players signed autographs.

It was all a way to say thanks to Long Island for keeping the green and white faith.

“It’s always amazing when you get in here, the electricity in here, and how the fans are awesome, there’s no doubt," Ryan said. "It’s clear that the Jets are their team and they don’t forget that.”

Reporter T.J. Brennan contributed to this story.




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