Blake Costanzo, a Jets rookie linebacker, admits that prior to this year he has never attended a football camp in his life – a pretty incredible thought considering he's now an NFL professional. Since joining the Jets however, Costanzo and the rest of the rookie class have not only attended, but coached two camps in the past week alone. Following a weekend of instruction at Eric Mangini's camp in Hartford, the Jets rookies played hosts at the most recent team event, the 2006 Generation Jets Kids Clinic held at Hofstra University over the weekend.
"The Jets do a great job providing kids with these opportunities like this," said Costanzo, a former Lafayette Leopard. "It's a great opportunity that I wish I had when I was younger - these kids should take full advantage of it. I would have loved to come out here and learn from professionals."
While the day's itinerary consisted of various drill sessions followed by non-tackle scrimmaging, the main goal of the clinic was to have as much fun as possible, something both the kids and the Jets rookies accomplished from the start. In some cases, the only way to determine the difference between the staff and the campers was simply size alone, as the Jets players had just as great a time as the kids.
D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Brennan Schmidt, both University of Virginia products, led a group of relay races and tackling drills. The very animated Cavalier duo couldn't be ignored as they jumped around with cheers when not participating in the drills themselves. Ferguson, who never attended such fun clinics as a kid, took advantage of the opportunity to make up for all of the fun he missed out on.
"I always like being around the kids, it's a great time," said Ferguson. "I never really attended camps until I got older, but it's all about the kids man, seeing the kids in their little Wayne Chrebet jerseys make touchdowns, that's what I like to see."
One very lucky camper had a great story of his own regarding the relationship he has with his favorite team. Blaise Benderoth, a recent winner of a GenJets contest, was in attendance wearing a huge smile and his usual green & white colors. Benderoth recently wrote a tremendous essay that explained why he was the biggest Jets fan and the prize was certainly an unforgettable experience.
"I got to go bowling with Justin McCareins," explained Benderoth, who cited Ferguson as his favorite Jets rookie. "I didn't bowl that good but Justin did; he's really good. I also got to bring nine of my friends. It was a lot of fun."
The camp turned out to be a success in every aspect, including a valuable learning experience for at least a few of the Jets players. Nick Mangold, a first round selection from Ohio State, and Costanzo would love to be coaches someday down the road, when they can no longer play the sport they love.
"A lot of these community service events with the Jets have helped me out big time with coaching, which is what I would potentially like to do in the future," Costanzo said. "It's cool to come out here and teach kids about football with what we have learned in the past. Hopefully they have a great time with us and someday apply what they learn from today to enhance their game."