The sixth annual Jets House is in the books, and in many ways it was the most impactful late January gathering yet of the Jets organization and the team's fans.
All sessions were sold out at SPIN New York in downtown Manhattan.
The current player lineup was impressive — QB Sam Darnold on Saturday morning, an offense-dominated Saturday night lineup of WRs Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa, RB Bilal Powell and G Brian Winters, Anderson and CB Rashard Robinson for return photo and autograph engagements Sunday morning. D-linemen Steve McLendon and Nathan Shepherd and DBs Darryl Roberts and Doug Middleton also appeared.
And there were the Jets Legends, packaged provocatively. In the first session, Leon Washington returned to the Jets for the first time in a while, paired with Darnold and also with his blocking partner from 2008-09, FB Tony Richardson. Then it was Erik Coleman and Willie Colon, former starters on opposite sides of the ball who now provide TV commentary on their former team.
Sunday morning presented the reunion of Wayne Chrebet and Laveranues Coles, the starting wideouts for the Jets' 2001 and '02 playoff teams — reunited, that is, until Wayne and LC went head-to-head at opposite ends of the ping-pong table.
And for the Sunday afternoon finale, what better way for fans of the Green & White to share the airing of the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl than with Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the decade-long offensive line anchors who earned 10 Pro Bowl berths between them?
"In many ways, this is one of the most pivotal years for us as an organization," said Jeff Fernandez, the team's vice president of business development. "We're looking forward to a new era, a young quarterback, a new head coach, new uniforms coming. There's a lot of anticipation from a fan base that's been with us loyally for many years and has always remained optimistic about the future. This Jets House was another example of people coming together and demonstrating their passion for the team."
Many popular attractions returned to Jets House. Olivia Landis and Ethan Greenberg hosted interactive games and contests with the players and fans at each session, with prize packages going to all fan participants. The "fan zone" returned with Madden and Fortnight games and an animated photo booth. So did the annual ping-pong tournament.
And really, the weekend was for the fans, who brought a variety of stories with them and took home a variety of experiences:
- The boy who told his father before leaving home Saturday morning, "Dad, meeting Sam Darnold is going to be a dream come true," then not only met Sam but was one of many who played ping-pong with the Jets QB.
- The father and son who heard about Jets House and wanted to check it out, so they drove down from their Vermont home to be fifth on line for the opening session, enjoyed the morning's activities, then drove back home later that day.
- A long-time season ticket holder who coordinated the attendance of a group of 24 friends, who don't all sit together for Jets games at MetLife Stadium but who make it a point to attend Jets House together.
- Coles, Roberts and other players going at it in Madden against some perhaps future NFL players.
- GM Mike Maccagnan attending the Saturday night session, not only to support all the fans but to spend time with a young fan battling cancer who wanted to come to Jets House.
- Fans at the Sunday Pro Bowl session spending some quality time not only with "Nick and Brick" but with Jets CEO Christopher Johnson.
Staging this event each year requires a marshaling of many different groups. There is the recent partnership for this event with SPIN, the ping-pong emporium located on 23rd Street in Manhattan that Fernandez says provides "the perfect fan environment." The sponsors are of primary importance as well — returning this year as presenting partner was Green Giant and supporting partners were Clean Eats, Corona Extra, Foodtown, JetBlue and playMGM.
Jets House, which began as a weeklong event leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII held at MetLife Stadium in early 2014, has earned the attention of the NFL, other teams (a few of which are holding their own January fan events), and even teams from other sports. And as Fernandez noted, it couldn't be executed without strong support across all Jets departments.
"This is a big undertaking. Everybody from the security team to the public relations team to communications, our social team, our production team, our event team, our ticket team, interns — there are a lot of people who dedicate their weekend to this. And we have that support from Christopher and [team president] Neil Glat and obviously the players," he said.
"We've really built something we can be proud of as an organization."