We cheer for them on Sundays, and sweat out each and every play they make. But lost somewhere in the shuffle is the fact that there are men behind the facemasks who have duties and responsibilities outside their jobs; much like the rest of us.
On Tuesday, S Brodney Pool and TE Matthew Mulligan took the time to visit Goryeb Children's Hospital in Morristown, N.J. Arriving complete with Jets memorabilia, the players moved from room to room, greeting patients, talking football and taking pictures. For the patients, it was an experience that made an otherwise painful day a bit brighter.
"I'm really happy that they came here to visit me," said Tyler Goodyear, a 14-year-old high school freshman. "It really boosts my confidence. The small things that they do can make someone's day. It's awesome."
A Jets fan throughout his life, Goodyear was set to play WR and CB at school this fall. Unfortunately, a dirt bike accident derailed his season and has him recovering at Goryeb. He remains steadfast in his determination to play next season, and the visit from Pool and Mulligan helped raise his spirits even more.
"It's inspiring," said Tyler's father, Glen. "He needs something like this to make him feel good. He's been through a lot. I think the Jets are very dedicated, and it shows a lot of heart."
Among the dedicated Jets is Mulligan, a repeat visitor to Goryeb, having visited there several times during his three-year Jets career.
"To be able to see kids in that particular situation enjoy life for however long we're there — the kids may be thinking they're having a good time, but for me, it's really uplifting," said Mulligan.
While Pool was making his first visit to the hospital, he has been on similar visits and understands the importance of reaching out to the less fortunate Jets fans.
"It's big, because anytime you can put a smile on a little kid's face, it's an amazing feeling. It's a fun thing to do," he said. "To go out and see those kids smiling just from giving them an autograph is pretty big."
For one patient who got to meet Pool and Mulligan, the visit was therapeutic for both him and his mother. Sam Fishman is a 9-year-old student at Bragg Elementary School in Chester, N.J., and is in Goryeb recovering after surgery to remove an infection in his femur.
Last season Fishman was able to take the field at MetLife Stadium to play in an exhibition at halftime of a Jets home game. This year the linebacker will miss his football season, but he reveled in the opportunity to spend time with members of his favorite team.
"It was literally the first smile I've seen in a week," said Sam's mother, Laura. "It's been an unhappy week of misery, and a smile is worth … it's priceless."
Kristin Holtzman is a child life specialist at Goryeb, and each year she sees the effects of the player visits firsthand.
"It's amazing to see their reactions," said Holtzman. "You see smiles on faces that you haven't seen. You saw all the kids decked out in Jets gear. They were so excited, and they couldn't wait. They were all so thankful and so grateful that Matthew and Brodney were able to come in and be a part of their day."
The effect the visits had on the patients were obvious, but the effects the patients had on the players were not as visible. However, while returning to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center two hours later, Mulligan spoke about how he was impacted by the visits.
"I've been to that hospital quite a few times, so I'm a regular there. It makes me realize how blessed I really am to be in this position, because there are a lot of people out there who are in unfortunate situations. For us to be able to do that, I think it's a great thing."