Favre Has Early Arrivers 'Extremely Excited'


Brett Favre.

That name drove Jets fans — and the sports media — into a fever when it was announced late Wednesday that the legendary quarterback had been traded to New York.

That name also drove them in droves to Hofstra University today to witness his first practice in Green & White. And that name has driven merchandise sales through the roof.

Favre was presented a key ring to the city by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference Friday. Then today, hundreds of fans, who had arrived early — some more than five hours early — for the 1:30 start of practice, surrounded the field proffering him the keys to their hearts.

Thomas Johnson, who sported a throwback Joe Namath jersey, said that he pulled into the parking lot just after 8 a.m. to ensure that he would get a good seat (or space to stand) and have full view of Favre's first throw.

The Ackerman family schlepped from Somers, N.Y., early this morning to watch the NFL's all-time touchdowns leader run drills.

"I'm extremely excited," said Roger Leider, wearing the No. 4 Green & White jersey he purchased Friday. "I've been a Jets fan for over 40 years and this, to me, is the biggest thing they've ever done. I'm a big Chad Pennington fan, but you can't argue with this."

From the business side, the numbers can't be argued with, either. The Jets Shop tent near the practice field this morning was loaded with Favre jerseys and shop-happy fans. The racks were still stacked, but in anticipation of quick sellouts the store had already placed an order for more. At www.JetsShop.com, merchandise orders have reached the tens of thousands.

In fact, the "NY" cap that Favre wore on the sidelines during the preseason opener against the Browns on Thursday sold out in three hours online. Shipments of those are arriving hourly.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Chris Pierce, the Jets senior director of merchandise. "People are coming in buying multiples of jerseys. The demand is unprecedented. The tent opened up on Friday at 11 a.m., and we had the first fan waiting here at 7 o'clock. It's like a feeding frenzy of Favre."

Joe Piazza of Babylon showed his support for Kellen Clemens by wearing the No. 11 jersey, but he and his family were in the Jets tent in search of — what else?

"Of course I'm going to get a Favre jersey," said Piazza, 15. "You can't help but get excited. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to give this deal about a 12. I'm thinking Super Bowl. We'll have two losses at the most this season."

Kevin Miller of Franklin Square, N.Y., is a lifelong Packers fan (his family hails from Wisconsin) but he was among the group of anxious onlookers there to show their support for Favre.

"He's always been my favorite player and I'd much rather he be here than with any other NFC team, so I'm OK with this," said Miller, who wore a white Packers No. 4 jersey and rocked the cheese hat with pride. "I went to Lambeau and saw his last regular-season game and I thought that was it when he retired. But I'm glad he's still playing and he's in New York so I can get to watch all his games."

Fred Schmidt, a fan of 45 years, was one of only a few Jets fans willing to temper his enthusiasm.

"I'm pretty happy, but I'm going to wait until he does something to get all excited," said Schmidt, who, despite his wait-and-see approach, drove from Philadelphia to watch the afternoon practice session.

While several fans expressed Super Bowl hopes — including Kevin Swetsky, who is convinced that Favre is the last piece to the puzzle — Carlos Rodriguez broke out the crystal ball and unfurled a detailed two-year outlook.

"Favre will get them to 11-5 this season," Rodriguez said with psychic certainty. "We're going to go 1-1 against New England in the regular season and then beat them in the second round of the playoffs, 17-14.

"No championship this year, though. We'll take it one step at a time and the Super Bowl comes next season. Broadway Brett will walk off the field like Namath, holding one finger in the air and whispering, 'We did it!' "

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