The 15th annual Taste of the Jets event, held Thursday night on the 30,000 square feet of polished oak floors at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York, brought together the Jets fans and members of the Green & White. And whether newly signed or old hands, the Jets players all had a great time.
"This is one of a lot of memories I have from my rookie year," said third-year linebacker Darron Lee, one of the team's spokesmen for the event. "It's for the fans. I love interacting with them because they make us, they make the Jets the Jets. Without them, we don't really have anything. We're just a bunch of guys playing football."
"It's awesome," said third-round rookie D-lineman Nathan Shepherd, who finished his college career at Fort Hays State in the middle of Kansas. "I'm totally loving it right now."
And center Spencer Long, the fifth-year veteran center who arrived as a Jet a few months ago as an unrestricted free agent, captured the event in elemental terms: "This is a lineman's event come true. You walk around to tables and try food. How much better could it get?"
Besides fans and food, the Taste of the Jets is a charitable endeavor, with this year's net proceeds benefiting the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
"It's a fantastic organization," Team President Neil Glat explained. "It was started by Stephen's brother, Frank, and it originated from the first responders who lost their lives at 9/11. But it's gone beyond that. They raise money for a lot of the families of those first responders, and they do a lot with the military and catastrophically injured soldiers.
Jets Players and Fans Sample Some of the Best Food in NYC and New Jersey at Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan
"So it's important for us to be in the community, with the people of New York, and also supporting our military. It's a great foundation and we're happy to support it."
Lee was joined by safety Jamal Adams and guard Brian Winters as the Jets' player spokesmen for the night. They were among 30 current players to attend the charity event, including the Jets rookie class (although first-round QB Sam Darnold was attending the NFLPA Rookie Premiere).
The Jets Legends community was also well represented as former players Fred Baxter, Greg Buttle, Erik Coleman, Willie Colon, Tony Richardson and Marvin Washington made the scene.
This year's hosts were Kay Adams and Kyle Brandt of NFL Network's Good Morning Football. Supporting partners of "The Taste" were Antigua & Barbuda Tourism, ESPN Radio and Rangecraft.
Fans also got to watch as the Jets Flight Crew performed and mingled around the Pavilion. One new wrinkle for the second Taste in a row was that four of the 22 restaurant stations were worked by local members of four U.S. military branches — Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines — as well as one station presented by the FDNY.
All the military participated in the Taste of the Jets Armed Forces Cook Off competition, which was judged by Adams, Colon and season ticket holder Frank West (Fan Hall of Fame inductee and Chopped winner).
There was also the Taste's annual live auction and raffle prizes. Other features at the event included a Jets Experience booth, Jets merchandise display, Antigua Tourism booth, Rangecraft display, photo booths, a virtual reality experience and a quarterback toss game. As always, the players were stationed around the floor to take photos, sign autographs and chat with the fans.
Associate Level Corporate Package Buyers were Dunkin Donuts, Kick Hunger Challenge, MetLife and Municipal Credit Union.
TASTE OF THE JETS RESTAURANT STATIONS
Pig & Prince
Central Park Boathouse
PHD Terrace at the Dream Hotel
MetLife Stadium/Delaware North
Slamwich Scratch Kitchen
The Kitchen Step
Park Avenue Tavern
Tavern on Jane/Sister Jane
Highland Park and Macallan Whiskey