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Jets, NFL Reaching Out to the Legends

Almost 50 Former Players Came to Atlantic Health Training Facility for a Weekend to Remember


Something about the full auditorium at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on Sunday was just a little off. Yes, the men were all wearing green shirts and hats. But some were showing signs of age, and others weren't as ripped as the usual football players you might see filling these seats.

Yet everything was all right about this scene, too. These were the almost 50 Jets Legends who showed up for the weekend to create and renew old bonds and to be celebrated by the current Jets and fans at Sunday's training camp practice.

"This is great," said John Schmitt, the center for the Super Bowl III Jets and a recognizable part of the Legends community ever since, "just to come and see the guys and laugh and tell stories and listen to everybody break Buttle's backside."

Besides Schmitt and golfing partner Greg Buttle, also on hand were Ring of Honor members Mark Gastineau, Al Toon and Wesley Walker, Super Bowl teammates Ralph Baker, Randy Beverly, Emerson Boozer and Jeff Richardson, and many others. See the full list below.

The Team Hosted Former Alumni and NFL Legends During Training Camp.

The initiative was the combined effort of the NFL and the Jets — led by owner Woody Johnson and president Neil Glat and including the support of GM Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles  — to bring members of past teams back together not just for a weekend of reminiscing but also to fill them in on the growing list of benefits available to players and to get them back out to sign autographs and reminisce with with the fans at the practice.

" 'Legend' doesn't necessarily mean you played 20 years and you're in the Hall of Fame like Joe Namath," said Tony Richardson, the Jets fullback from 2008-10 and now the Northeast Coordinator for NFL Legends. "Legend means you gave your blood, your sweat, your tears, you gave everything to help build this game. So I think you should be honored as a legend. The NFL sees the importance of this and now on the club level the Jets have been awesome, really receptive to everything we're trying to do.

"To hear the stories last night, guys rubbing elbows and talking about different eras, is just amazing."

The "weekend" of activities, arranged by Brian Mulligan and Trish McLeod from Fan Engagement & Game Presentation and Chris Pierce of Fan Commerce, kicked off Saturday night with dinner at The Madison Hotel. Sunday began with a free yoga class at the hotel co-hosted by Richardson and Pure Yoga. Then came a brunch at the facility, the hour-long meeting in the auditorium, their special platform at practice, and another dinner at the hotel.

The activities wrapped up with the Legends Classic Golf Tournament at Morris County GC, won by Legends safety Victor Green and his foursome from ASCO Power Technologies (Don Bachman, Don Blackman, Dan Scheffer and Armand Visoli).

The Sunday practice ended with a group shot of the Legends with Bowles. At other times, Bowles has invited selected alumni to break down the team after a practice. All of this captures part of the attraction of the program for Dave Szott.

"Our current players love to hear the perspective from the former players, so this is beneficial to my department," said Szott, Jets guard from 2002-03 and since then the team's director of player development. "Now certain questions I ask guys when I run into them are: How are you feeling? How's your body? How did you transition into your current roles, how did that happen? So I wanted that wealth of information and resources and experiences.

"So I believe it's very good for our current roster, it's good for our former roster, it's good for the organization. And the NFL has put the resources behind the Legends platform, so now there's very significant benefits for these guys to become involved."

The players spoke in one voice of how appreciative they are for this event and the initiative as it moves forward.

"I'm appreciative they're saying I'm something like a legend," said Laveranues Coles, the wide receiver who made three stops with the Jets during the 2000s. "I get to see guys' names hung on the wall of the fieldhouse like Al Toon and Wesley Walker that paved the way for younger guys like myself, and to be considered a legend and be in the room with them, taking pictures and doing autographs, I'm thankful the NFL has reached back out to us."

"The one thing I missed about football was the camaraderie with your teammates," said Erik Coleman, safety from 2004-07 who now is doing TV work in the New York market. "It's great to know you have that connection. It makes you feel a part of the team and what they're doing moving forward."




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