Defined by consistency, David Harris has been a rock for the Jets since joining the club in 2007. A quiet performer, Harris has excelled on the field while helping the youth of northern New Jersey along the way. Harris, joined by dozens of players and coaches Monday at the Green Brook Country Club in North Caldwell, NJ, couldn't hide his pleasure before the first tee shot at the Seventh Annual David Harris Golf Invitational.
"I've been blessed to still be part of the Jets and part of the community for this long, and every year it's getting bigger and better," he said. "And the community has turned out and showed tremendous support and I can't ask for anything more."
Harris, who has become the face of the Give the Kids Hope Foundation, cemented a bond in 2010 with Stephen Tilton Jr. of the Schumacher Chevrolet Auto Group. The goal of the foundation is to provide recreational and educational opportunities to underprivileged children in New Jersey and this year the estimated $40K to $60K raised funds will help rebuild the pavilion that provides shelter for the new spray park at Camp Hope in Passaic County.
"This year is pretty significant because last year the county committed to building a new pool in the spray park at the camp. This year we're putting up a pavilion for that pool," said Tilton. "For the first time, that pavilion will have bathrooms, which they haven't had in the past. Between our commitment of over $60K and the county, we're going to construct a $120K pavilion for the kids and it's just really amazing."
The Green & White were well-represented as head coach Todd Bowles gave the players — who are currently taking part in Phase Two of the team's offseason program — the option of working out or attending the Harris Invitational.
"One of our guys is having something and he's doing something for charity and he's doing something for the kids. I think it's important the rest of the guys chip in and help out because they all have things going out that they want each other to help out in, and it helps build team chemistry and it helps bring them closer together," Bowles said.
"It's always a good turnout every single year. David is a staple in our locker room," added QB Geno Smith. "This is a great thing for his foundation, for this community and for these kids. A lot of guys are interested and want to come out here."
Camp Hope, a wooded retreat on Greenwood Lake in West Milford, provides children an opportunity to swim in an Olympic-size pool, participate in arts and crafts, take hikes, dance and partake in various sports.
"It's grown significantly. In fact, we were just reviewing the numbers of the camp. In the last six or seven years, the number of campers at Camp Hope has almost doubled," Tilton said. "So this year we expect about 2,500 kids will go through the camp and those are mostly underprivileged kids from northern New Jersey."
So a year after the pool was created, the pavilion will be built. Camp Hope continues to grow and the humble Harris is happy to continue to play his part.
"It means a lot to David," Tilton said. "And again from the very inception of the foundation when he committed to be a part of it, he was enthusiastic and he did everything that he possibly could do to help us and it's made a significant difference to a lot of young kids in this state."
On the same day the 32-year-old Harris told the media he has to show the Jets' young linebackers the way, his coach said all the youthful Jets should follow The Hitman's trail.
"Great role model, great to see. I think it's great for the young guys coming in, so they can see that and have something to build off in a positive way to have those types of guys in the locker room," Bowles said. "David certainly does that for us."