At the Jets' last open training camp practice last week, tight end Dustin Keller made the day for a group of deserving high school students. With the help of Reebok, Keller donated equipment to the football team at Automotive High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. Keller bused the team out to practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., and addressed the student athletes.
"I spoke with people at Reebok," Keller said. "They went above and beyond. They donated between $15,000 and $20,000 of Reebok equipment. It's a really cool situation and a bunch of really cool kids."
The high school, operating since 1937, has 1,200 students who flock to Greenpoint in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, from neighborhoods all over New York City. Students come from tough neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Harlem and the Bronx, said Haz Khawaja, the school's head coach.
"They bring all the energy and all the enthusiasm," Khawaja said. "They channel it into being successful on the football field because they developed the program and these kids have developed this energy and desire to be special and to be winners. Everything that they have, good or bad, positive or negative, they just channel that energy into being as good as they can be and making the team as good as we can be."
The Jets have supported the Public School Athletic League for years and helped Automotive jumpstart its football program four years ago. In their first season, the Pistons went 0-10. With heart and determination, last season they went 10-0 before losing in the championship game.
Last week the players seemed hungry for more as Keller led them in a "breakdown" huddle before he left the practice field.
"A friend told me about the high school," Keller said, "and it's kind of a compelling story of how four years ago they started a football program. Four years after that they've turned it around with nothing. It made me want to do something for them. They worked so hard, especially for the coach. Their coach cares so much but still they have nothing."
Khawaja smiled while his players interacted with Keller and received their new gear, which included cleats, gloves, shorts with their Pistons logo, team jackets and track pants. Keller even picked out a football and found the team's tight end with a throw.
For the coach, though, Keller brought out own of his own No. 81 jerseys, which he signed and told Khawaja to frame in his office or home.
"These kids, they work really hard on the field and in the classroom," Khawaja said. "To feel like they're being appreciated especially by an NFL player and just to be recognized, it means the world to them. Just to get out of the city and come out here and see these huge fields and huge athletes playing the game that they love to play, it means the world to them."