On Saturday morning New York Jets faithful began to camp out for the Green & White's AFC Championship Game sendoff at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, NJ. They didn't stop coming in throughout the morning and by the time head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets players worked their way through the crowd, there were over 8,000 fans in attendance to cheer them on.
Fans came away impressed.
"Today was awesome. It's about the power of the people," said James W., from Flushing, Queens. "It's great to see that we're still with the Green Machine. The thing I like about it is that they're bringing it to the people. The thing that is nice about that is that they're not stuck up, they're human beings and they're going to play with heart, they're going to play with the thing that counts. It's real football. It's not about money, it's about football and bringing the trophy home where it deserves to be."
James, who recalled going to New York Titans games as a youngster, brought his family along for today's rally, which featured another long time Jets fan — Fireman Ed Anzalone. In his typical fashion and in his big white firefighter's helmet, Ed riled up the crowd and remarked on the last few weeks of the Jets' postseason run.
He commented on the doubters who didn't believe the Jets could take down the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots, and said that unlike last season's trip to the AFC Championship Game, this year Ryan's bunch is ready to go in and make the moment theirs.
"I love it," Fireman Ed said to the crowd. "Bigger crowd than last year, no doubt about it. Like I said in Times Square the other night, when we made the championship game last year, I think we were happy to be at the party. ... This year, we are the party!"
Not only are the Jets a hot team going into the playoffs after beating teams quarterbacked by two former Super Bowl MVPs, but they are playing in a high profile contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend that will certainly be a test of their will and strength.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum addressed the crowd and disclosed that the team's close games in the regular season will provide major dividends this week.
"What a team we have — the resilience, the competitiveness all year," Tannenbaum said. "The comeback wins against Cleveland, Houston and Detroit, that served us well. I'll tell you this, we had a great week of practice. We're ready to roll."
The fans even got a special message from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is proud that the Jets call New Jersey home.
"Don't you think Rex and I look a little alike?" Christie joked with the crowd. "This is it now. Last year we came close. This year we're bringing the Lombardi Trophy right back to New Jersey."
There was no shortage of star power as the Jets players following their morning walkthrough mingled with the crowd, gave out high-fives and got pumped up for their big game, just hours before their flight to Pittsburgh later this afternoon.
The sendoff, sponsored by JetBlue, Dunkin' Donuts, Hess, Pepsi Max and Papa John's, was the latest event in a great week for Jets fans still basking in the emotional victory over the Patriots in Foxboro last week. On Thursday owner Woody Johnson, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and the team hosted a rally at Times Square. On Friday, Curtis Martin, Jets legend and Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate, helped flip the switch to light up the Empire State Building in Jets green.
After those two events helped capture New York City as the Jets' town, Ryan and company helped cap off the week with the big gathering in New Jersey on Saturday, which was a resounding success.
"Meeting the players, that was intense," said Jeff from Howell, N.J. "We're doing well, but we have to step it up tomorrow without a doubt. I was there at training camp. It's been a great experience. I've been a Jets fan for 16 years now and I've never seen anything like this."