The Jets rookie class ventured out into the local community on Tuesday to lend a helping hand — and a supporting voice — to the youth of Florham Park. As part of the NFL's 13th annual Hometown Huddle, 12 Jets rookies joined 40 children, the United Way of Northern New Jersey, and members of the National Guard to finish the installation of 10 exercise stations along a walking path at Emmett Park.
"This generation, they're the video game generation," said DT Kenrick Ellis. "With us being here, showing them how to do certain exercises, that might be the spark they need."
Fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-graders from Florham Park, the home of the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, were divided into groups led by a Jets rookie and a member of the National Guard. Together, they helped spread mulch surrounding freshly installed exercise equipment.
"Having 12 players show up on their day off is really about being a true role model," said Theresa Lepore, senior vice president of resource development for the United Way of Northern New Jersey. "The Jets have shown up time and time again for us, and this year in particular, the economic conditions in Florham Park are such that this project wouldn't have happened if it weren't for the Jets."
Part of the afternoon included a $30,000 check presentation from the Jets to the borough to support the project. The exercise stations are available for public use and they encourage youth exercise in coordination with the NFL's Play 60 curriculum.
"This is another motivator for the kids," said Florham Park Mayor Scott Eveland. "It's another opportunity we're trying to create for them to be physically fit and active. A strong body makes a strong mind. That's part of the battle the Jets and the NFL are fighting, and we support it."
After spreading several towering mounds of mulch around each piece of equipment, the rookies demonstrated various exercises for the children, who then joined in.
"It means a lot to give back," said QB Greg McElroy. "We were all in these kids' shoes at some point. I lived outside, organizing football games, baseball games, Wiffle ball, basketball, you name it. It's nice to have an opportunity to help these kids understand how important it is to stay active and physically fit."
One Jets wideout in particular would have appreciated the opportunity to interact with NFL players when he was a youngster in Texas.
"As a kid, this is something I wish I could have had," said WR Jeremy Kerley. "I wish I could have had an NFL player come out and talk to me, telling me how special I was and what I could do to be great one day. I think that's what we're doing for these kids today."
Kerley has shown how special he has become already in his short amount of time as a pro. Ellis believes the efforts of the young Jets may in turn provide the right encouragement to help the children of Florham Park follow in their footsteps.
"By me taking my day, you never know, I may be impacting the kids for the rest of their lives," said Ellis. "Actually seeing a professional athlete out here helping them out, now they might want to be a professional athlete."