Women and men, old and young attended the 101/201 Football Clinics at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on Thursday evening to hone their physical and mental football skills, guided by some of the best in the game.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer took the 101 clinic's first snap, loading a PowerPoint slideshow onto the auditorium's large overhead screen and using a green laser pointer to point out and define football terms while illustrating the complexities of the "language" in a pro football offense.
"People watch the game on Sundays and they really don't know all that goes into it," Schottenheimer said. "What the pads feel like, how heavy the helmet is, how much information the players have to learn — it's a lot.
"And we feel like our players don't get enough credit for how difficult it is. The physical part everybody knows, they witness that. But how much goes into the mental side of the game — both preparation-wise during the course of the week and then, obviously, the ability to transfer that over to gameday and go out and perform in a noisy environment with a lot of pressure, a lot on the line, and go out and still be able to perform — is very difficult."
One guest got to experience a challenging aspect of being a QB on Sundays when Schottenheimer asked her to put on a radio-equipped helmet and repeat a play call that he transmitted through his walkie-talkie in "real time."
"Houston, we've got a problem" she said, busting up the audience. "Timeout," another guest shouted. "Timeout, exactly," Schotty replied.
Special teams coach Mike Westhoff kicked off the next lesson and immediately started joking around with the audience.
"This is a different kind of group than the one I'm used to seeing in here," he said. "Way more hair, way less tattoos."
Westhoff boasted that he was the oldest of the Jets coaching squad and was quick to point out that he's approaching his 600th NFL game.
"Coming to New York has been just tremendous for me," he said. "I've had a ball here, I've really enjoyed it. This is my eighth year. I have a few more years that I signed for. Oh, hell, I probably won't quit. I'll probably just keep going."
Standing through his 30-minute lecture without needing the help of his signature cane, he showed how a special teams play looks on paper and then showed in-game examples using coach's video.
Westhoff explained why his favorite part of the game is getting first dibs on most of the younger players.
"Seeing some young guy that no one really knew that much about," he said, "to give him an opportunity, watch him come along ... it changes his whole life."
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine tackled the final class of the evening and surprised the guests by showing them a variety of statistics used to break down offenses.
"Coach, are you pretty much the data geek?" said one guest. "Should I be offended?" Pettine said to a roar of laughter, before turning more serious.
"To me, I think some coordinators rely too much on this [data]," he said. "We also, while the film is being broken down, sit and watch it and I'll take notes. My computer, early in the week, is a yellow legal pad. Instinct, just writing down 'Here's what I think I see.' We use the computer to kind of confirm or deny a lot of the things that the coaches will come out of watching the film with. So I think the computer's important, but you don't want to rely on it too much."
Guests who wanted to get a more hands-on experience participated in the 201 Clinic. There, fans could run, jump, throw and catch passes with the Jets rookie class in the facility's indoor fieldhouse.
Participants broke up into groups by age and spent the evening going from drill to drill — not unlike the Generation Jets Kids Clinic from the previous Saturday.
Whether Thursday night's guests participated in the 101 or 201 clinics, everyone walked away with a unique experience, with many saying they're already looking forward to returning next year.
"Mark [Sanchez] tossed me the ball to throw into the garbage can," said James from Montclair. "Now I can tell people I caught a pass from Mark Sanchez!"