The Jets Legends descended on the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center today as part of this year's Legends Community Weekend activities.
The former players began arriving Saturday and attended a reception at The Madison Hotel. Today's schedule began at the training complex with brunch and a Legends Program overview presented by former Jets fullback Tony Richardson.
Then it was out to Jets Fest to mingle with Green & White fans and on to the practice fields, where, despite the continuing North Jersey heat, the players and their guests enjoyed this afternoon's training camp practice.
"I came in yesterday afternoon from Indiana," said tackle Jason Fabini, one of close to 60 Legends on hand today. "I've been to the facility here one time but it was late at night, so it's cool to see it in the day. It's beautiful. And it's really great to feel like a part of the Jets family and come back here and see everybody, see what people are doing, people you haven't seen in a while."
A centerpiece of the weekend has been the talk given to the players in the team auditorium. Director of player development Dave Szott — a Jets Legend himself — introduced "T-Rich," now the Northeast Coordinator for the NFL's Legends Platform, and Tracy Perlman, NFL Vice President of Legends and Player Marketing.
"Every time I meet with [Jets owner] Woody Johnson, he asks, 'How's the Legends community? How is it growing?' " Richardson said. "He wants to have every last single player who put on a Jets uniform to be able to come back to the facility and feel welcomed. And I'm honored to be able to stand here in front of you and represent you."
Former tight end Anthony Becht and former safety Erik McMillan also made short presentations, and the goal of it all was to let the assembled Legends, plus the players who weren't able to make it in via email and Facebook, of the growing number of services that are available to these men and their families.
"I think it's great that they recognize the older players and do a little something for them," said former linebacker Ralph Baker, one of the stars of the 1968 season and especially the '68 AFL Championship Game win over the Raiders. "They make you feel like you're welcome back. It's come a long, long way. And I would love to be starting my career now and have all the benefits these younger players have."
"I think this is run so professionally. We're really on the cutting edge," said Jim McKinstry, the one-time tight end in the mid-Sixties who never played in the regular season for the Jets due to such varied causes as an Achilles' injury, a hitch in the military, and a role in the development of NASA's lunar module (he's writing an autobiography now). "And it's good to have a mix because these younger guys, they're looking at the people in my age group and saying, 'I'm going to be there some day.' They're starting to become more attuned to these presentations."
After presentations and practice, the Legends are returning to The Madison Hotel for dinner tonight, and on Monday it's a 10:30 a.m. shotgun start for the Legends Golf Classic at the Morris County Golf Course, followed by an on-course reception and finally a trip back to the hotel and a return home.
One the many mementoes the former players will take back with them will be an underscore of the theme developed by commissioner Roger Goodell and Perlman's group on the team's and the league's commitment to the program: "Once a player, always a Legend."
50+ Jets Legends Spend Day at 1 Jets Drive