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Kicking Things Off Right at Annual Luncheon


2009 Kickoff Luncheon

You know the regular season is only days away when the Jets host their annual kickoff luncheon.

"To me, this symbolizes the start of the season," said Jets CEO Woody Johnson today at Cipriani Wall Street.

For the ninth year overall and the third consecutive time at Cipriani Wall Street, the Green & White got liftoff with a mid-afternoon treat to raise money for the New York Jets Foundation and the Alliance for Lupus Research. With the 50th anniversary of the franchise serving as a backdrop, the Jets honored Marty Lyons.

A former first-round pick from Alabama, Lyons was part of the famed Sack Exchange unit as a player, has done tremendous charity work through his foundation over the past 27 years and currently serves as the team's color man on its radio broadcasts.

The 52-year-old Lyons, who's been a Jet in some form for 30 years, delivered a heartfelt speech to all those in attendance and specifically addressed the current Jets.

"You paid the price to have the privilege to play in the NFL. Now that you have the privilege, you also have to understand that there is an obligation — an obligation to touch people, to change the way people think, change the way people act and to give back to those who are less fortunate," he said.

Lyons, who spoke in front of all of the Jets and the coaching staff, was also supported by a great alumni turnout that included fellow Sack Exchange buddy Abdul Salaam, Curtis Martin, Wayne Chrebet, Randy Beverly, Dave Hermann, Bruce Harper, Wesley Walker and Ken Schroy.

"The game of football isn't going to last forever. It's going to be a small part of your life. You are going to be very fortunate to build financial security for your family, but it's the lives you touch outside the game that will really distinguish whether you took advantage of the other part," Lyons said. "You are on the largest stage, the largest platform you could ever ask for. You're right here in New York."

After speeches by both Johnson and Lyons were followed by lunch, head coach Rex Ryan took to the podium and had a message for the pundits.

"The experts talk about us being one of those also-ran teams. They say we have a rookie quarterback, a rookie head coach and a tough schedule," he said. "All those things are true, but what they're not understanding is this is not about the individual. This is about our football team. For the limitations I might have as a head coach or Mark Sanchez might have as a rookie quarterback, we have so many positives."

Then Ryan turned the mic over to NT Kris Jenkins and WR Jerricho Cotchery, who briefly talked about the defensive and offensive units respectively.

"I'm really optimistic.  With this coach and this team, I think it's the best team I've had thus far," Johnson said while mingling with guests.  "I'm very, very optimistic. We should do really well this year."

Chrebet, now a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley, thinks this is a perfect situation for Sanchez, pointing to a premier offensive line, a solid stable of backs and an imposing defense. But Chrebet knows playing in New York can be tough if things don't go your way.

"He played at USC, so there is a lot of media out there and a lot of expectations. He's used to it, but there's nothing like playing in New York," said "Mr. Third Down." "I think the media has treated him pretty good so far.  If he has a tough game his first game, they'll kill him."

The event, which has raised more than $5 million split through the years between the Jets Foundation and the ALR, didn't conclude before a Super Bowl trip for two was auctioned off for $17,000.

Johnson, who purchased the Jets in 2000, is crossing his fingers for a special golden anniversary campaign.

"It's hard to believe the AFL is 50 years old and the Jets were one of the first eight teams.  That's a long time," Johnson said. "It's been an exciting journey but it's time for us to get a Super Bowl."

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