Jets wide receiver Brad Smith and cornerback Kyle Wilson jumpstarted local students at Madison Junior School in Madison, N.J., on Tuesday with the Jets Play 60 Challenge. With students from St. Vincent the Martyr School, Holy Family School, Ridgedale Middle School and Harding School joining in, Smith and Wilson introduced the sixth-grade students to a beneficial program that goes hand in hand with the American Heart Association.
"Play 60 is really a joy because you get to see really what we promote, which is a heart-healthy lifestyle in action," said Marci Robinson, the AHA's youth market manager. "There's no better role model for most of these kids than a professional athlete, somebody they may never get a chance to meet. So to be able to do Play 60 and associate it with the Jets, their hometown team, is really powerful. It's everything that we hoped to accomplish and this is the generation we really hope to reach out to because they're the generation at risk."
Smith and Wilson began the afternoon with a little exercise of their own on their off day, playing basketball with students during their gym class. They started off with a couple games of "Knockout," in which both players were knocked out by their younger competitors. But then the duo showed their mettle in a few good-natured 5-on-5 contests. Smith dunked and playfully blocked some shots while Wilson dishing out assists to all of the kids on his team.
"Playing with these kids in their gym class was awesome," Smith said. "We played a little basketball. I think I had 18 points on some sixth-graders, but it's fun. They played hard. It's just fun to see kids have fun and not a care in the world and that's what it comes down to in sports and in life in general, just to have fun."
After running around the gymnasium, Robinson, Jets community relations director Jesse Linder, Smith and Wilson all addressed the sixth-graders in the auditorium. They explained that in the next four weeks the students will keep track of their exercise in a special Jets journal, making sure that they get 60 minutes of exercise every day.
The students who complete that task will receive a certificate signed by Smith and Wilson and their names will be put in a raffle to be one of 11 students selected to lead the Jets onto the field before their Thanksgiving night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Even if they aren't selected, there will be a big celebration at the end of the four weeks, and the message Smith and Wilson hope to convey will be taken to heart.
"I think it's very important to promote 60 minutes of exercise a day," Wilson said. "For disease prevention, to promote healthy living and also it's just fun."
The session in the auditorium ended with a question-and-answer session and also incorporated a trivia component that allowed students to win prizes. After the players shared some personal trivia, the students who answered the questions correctly received signed footballs, hats and team yearbooks.
Throughout the four weeks Smith will be appearing in motivational videos for the sixth-graders, reminding them to stick to their goal. With rising childhood obesity, heart disease and other ailments, making exercise a priority at a young age is extremely important for all of those involved with Play 60 and the AHA.
"It's important for kids to get 60 minutes of activity," Smith said. "It has a lot to do with their health and how they're going to be when they get older as far as their cholesterol, heart issues and overall quality of life. It's going to help them improve that if they get that established when they're younger. Hopefully we can ingrain that in these kids to get their 60 minutes and when they get older they won't have to think about it."