Adam Hait, winner of the rookie experience auction, and friends celebrate at the skills clinic hosted by the New York Jets 2007 draft class.
You never know what formation or what play to expect with head coach Eric Mangini on the sideline. But it would have been hard to predict that cornerback Darrelle Revis, the Jets' first-round selection out of Pittsburgh, would line up at quarterback and work from the shotgun so early in his first pro off-season.
That was the case Friday, though, as Revis, who played some quarterback at Aliquippa High School, looked defenders off and lofted a ball to a man wearing a Chad Pennington jersey. This No. 10 — Adam Hait — hauled it in and got his feet inbounds for the first score of the afternoon.
"I caught that from the draft pick we traded up to get. It was awesome," Hait said. "On the second one I caught, they called me out of bounds. It's all right. I'll accept that."
Hait, from Warren Township, N.J., was the winner of the latest Jets Auction. He had the opportunity to bring 16 people — family and friends, young and old — to a skills clinic hosted by the Green & White's 2007 draft class.
The rookie experience was auctioned off following the club's charity golf tournament. It was there at the Meadow Brook Club in Jerricho, N.Y., where Hait and his cousin, Roger Schwartz, played a round of golf with Pennington.
"We were reluctant to use Chad's drive because we were scared none of us could hit a second shot," Roger said. "We used a ton of his shots. For a guy who doesn't play a lot, he is a great golfer."
Even though the score wasn't great for a scramble, they had a great time with the amicable QB. And when the dinner followed, Adam was determined to grab his chance for a day with the Jets' rookies.
"The whole rookie class got along great with my children," he said. "I told my daughter that anybody who was bigger than me is a player so go ask them for their autographs, and they were great. My wife got along with them. We got lots of pictures of the rookies at that time. They are a good bunch of people."
Adam marched into the bubble last week with his large group. Jesse Linder, the Jets' director of community relations, divided the 17 into a quartet of teams. Each squad went through a brief skills session with the rookies before the games commenced.
"It means the world for them to come over and play with us, and it means the world to us to come and play with them," said safety Leonard Peters. "It's fun."
The players were designated as coaches, quarterbacks and referees. It was an interesting sight to see 6'5", 295-pound offensive lineman Andrew Wicker (Nick Mangold's "brother") with the whistle in his mouth.
"I might let a few holds slide," Wicker joked. "No, it's not about being strict or anything. This is all about fun. I'm going to let everybody have fun. This is backyard football."
But as we all know, backyard football can become competitive. David Harris, the second-round selection from Michigan, stopped to have a brief conversation while coaching and then all hell broke loose. One of his defenders picked off a floater and returned it for a touchdown. Harris sprinted down the field to celebrate with his team, flashing good pursuit in the process.
"Yeah, we are up seven. There is like less than a minute left," he said. "Our defensive player just made one heck of a play, taking it back for seven. Now we have to play defense, so we'll see."
Unfortunately for Harris, the one-score advantage wouldn't hold up in this game of touch. Worried that his team was "unprepared" for the no-huddle, the opposition struck and tied the game late as Linder counted the seconds down.
Controversy ensued on the game's final play. Harris' team appeared to score on a long aerial assault and a friendly ruckus followed. The defense claimed two hands were placed on the receiver before the ball crossed the goal line. North Dakota State product Kyle Steffes was screened on the play and didn't make a call. About 20 yards upfield, Wicker claimed the plane was never crossed and the game ended in a disputed draw.
"My angle was further back. I saw exactly where his foot was and he doesn't have that kind of length," Wicker said. "It was about seven feet out. I know a 12-year-old kid cannot stretch out seven feet."
The top highlight came from one of the second games. Youngster Graham Schwartz, who wore a Jerricho Cotchery jersey and was seemingly just a little bit bigger than the football, scored on a memorable scamper.
His team set up an impressive blockade and Graham scooted in and out down the field. Untouched, he dropped the ball and sprawled out on the Fieldturf before getting back on his feet and eventually finding his way to the end zone. He danced in celebration and held his two index fingers toward the sky. Then a couple of the Jets lifted Graham onto their shoulders and paraded him around the field.
"It was a nice touchdown," Roger said of his 4½-year-old son. "He's been working on that. The rooks helped him with that at halftime. He is absolutely thrilled. At his age, he'll remember this for the rest of his life."
The rookies had just as much fun as the auction winners on Friday. There was a lot of complaining about the work of the referees and pleading for big plays on the field.
"The rookies spend a lot of time together. We are pretty close as a unit," Harris said. "We eat together, we watch TV together. It's a band of brothers, I guess. We're all in it together, going through the same things away from home. We have a new system and are adapting. We lean on each other for support."
That's the kind of attitude Mangini loves. But don't expect Revis at quarterback anytime soon.
"I played quarterback in high school. I've got a deep threat as a wide receiver," he said after tossing his first score to Hait. "It's fun right now to come out here and have fun with the fans and the kids."
(All proceeds from Jets Auctions go to the New York Jets Foundation.)