Congratulations are in order for Dave Szott. The 14-year guard who spent his last two seasons of 2002-03 with the Jets, continues to lead-block for his teammates now that he's the Green & White's director of player development.
The Jets won the Outstanding Players Assistance Services Award, for assisting players in their adjustment to life as professional athletes and helping them prepare for life after football, from the NFL Players Development Department at the recently concluded owners' meetings in California. The award is one of four awarded annually by the department.
And it's a coup for Szott, who is the first "rookie" player development director to win such an award. Between the end of his playing career and the start of his front office life, Szott served as the Jets' chaplain.
"I didn't expect or anticipate it," Szott told newyorkjets.com. "I give my thanks to the league office for the efforts they made and the resources they provided me in fulfilling all the needs of our player assistance program."
He also takes his hat to owner Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Tannenbaum, head coach Rex Ryan and the coach Ryan replaced, Eric Mangini, for the current state of the Jets' program.
"Mr. Johnson, Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan fully support the mission and role of player development. For this I am very appreciative," Szott said. "All programs are for the benefit of the of players and their families. They are completely supportive."
One of Szott's areas of expertise is education. He reported that two players are graduating from college this year — QB Brett Ratliff from Utah and RB Danny Woodhead from Chadron — while four more are enrolled in grad school — WR David Clowney, T D'Brickashaw Ferguson, WR Brad Smith and S Eric Smith.
Besides helping players with every-day challenges, Szott worked diligently to assist players with the relocation process as the Jets transitioned from Long Island to Florham Park, N.J. Moving is often stressful, but Dave communicated to the players that they would have help in managing the changes so they could still focus on their jobs.
Also, each team schedules a Life Skills session each regular season, which is mandatory for all players. The purpose of the session is to address the stressors of life in the NFL, including media scrutiny, leading public lives and balancing the demands of work with friends and family. Although it was his first time organizing this meeting, Szott utilized his experience as a former player and invited several well-respected former players to participate, including Curtis Martin, Bart Oates, Tony Siragusa and Anthony Pleasant.
More uniform number changes:
QB Erik Ainge hung with No. 9 all last season, but now he's hung up No. 9 and is switching to 10. That was Chad Pennington's number, of course. It was also Ainge's number in four years as Tennessee's starting QB.
CB Dwight Lowery, who wore 34 all last season, is downshifting to 21. He was 25 at San Jose State but Kerry Rhodes has staked out that territory for four years.
Newly signed Donald Strickland, who wore No. 30 for the 49ers when he started at LCB against the Jets in San Francisco last season, comes in at No. 34, but we're hearing he also will "trade down" if the number is right.