The 16th Taste of the Jets event, staged Thursday night at the Metropolitan Pavilion, brought together the team and its fans for their annual evening of food and community in the heart of New York City.
Among the nearly 30 current players in attendance were wide receiver Robby Anderson and recently signed linebacker C.J. Mosley. Also, the Jets' rookie class made the scene, led by top draft choice Quinnen Williams. The former Alabama defensive lineman was one of the evening's big attractions with a long line of fans bearing souvenir footballs, miniature helmets, hats and other memorabilia for him to sign.
One of Quinnen's interested observers was Marty Lyons. The Jets legend and longtime radio analyst was the Green & White's first-round pick out of 'Bama back in 1979. And he shared an exchange he had with his fellow Crimson Tide defensive star.
"When Quinnen got up here, he had to choose a number," Marty said. "He couldn't get 92 because Leonard Williams has it. I said, 'If you went up a number, you could've had 93.' " That, of course, was Lyons' number in his 11 Jets seasons. "Quinnen said, 'With all due respect, that number has a tradition to it. I've got to start my own tradition.'
"He's a great kid. I was talking to him a little bit about what to expect with the Jets. I said, 'The thing about here in New York, they'll love you. Just be honest with them and play hard. That's all the fans can ask for.' "
Lyons was among a group of Jets legends at the event that included former fullback Tony Richardson and former DT Lou Benfatti. T-Rich was joined on stage by Mosley for one of the night's highlights, judging some of the dishes in a cook-off competition among the military branches and first responders who had stations at the event, moderated by the event's co-hosts, Kay Adams and Kyle Brandt of NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."
Down on the pavilion's 30,000 square feet of polished oak floors, cuisine from 18 restaurants in the tristate area were parlayed with the event's charitable component — net proceeds benefit the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation — and that was right in the players' wheelhouse.
"We come every year," said offensive lineman Brent Qvale, who was stationed with his wife at PHD Terrace, which was serving up tuna poke chips with wasabi aioli. "It's a great cause, and we like coming in and meeting a lot of new people, all the vendors, all the chefs. It's good team bonding."
Second year DL Nathan Shepherd was at the nearby Tavern on Jane station, where they were serving up tasty single-serving plates of crispy pork bellies.
"These events are very important to me, to be able to give back to the community," Shepherd said. "And one night a year I eat what I want, and this is the night."
Fourth-round rookie TE Trevon Wesco out of West Virginia had a similar approach. "I'm looking forward to getting into some charities," Wesco said. "And it's nice to get to know some of the restaurants in New York if I'm going to be here for a little while."
Also in the crowd was Jets CEO Christopher Johnson, President Neil Glat, and other team officials. As Glat as has said about this event, "It's like a taste of the Jets season ahead. Fans have an opportunity to get the players in a relaxed setting before minicamp and training camp kick in. The mood is great, the players are enjoying themselves, and we're really talking football."
Fans also got to watch the New York Jets Flight Crew perform. One new wrinkle for the third Taste in a row was that five of the 25 restaurant stations were worked by local members of U.S. military branches — Air Force, Army, Navy and Women's Marine Association — and the FDNY and NYPD presented two other stations.
Frank Siller, the chairman/CEO of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, explained the origins of the foundation.
"Almost eighteen years ago on 9/11, I lost my brother," he said. "He was a New York City firefighter who actually ran through the tunnel with 60 pounds of gear on his back and gave up his life while saving others. It's a moving story when you hear somebody willing to do that.
"And I think the partnership with the Jets is simple because the Johnson family and the New York Jets care about Americans, care about the men and women in uniform and our police officers and our firefighters. And that's what our foundation is all about. It's to honor the sacrifice that was made on 9/11 and to honor the sacrifices that have been made ever since."
Among the features at the Pavilion at 125 West 18th Street was a display by the Siller foundation of artifacts from Ground Zero.
The Taste of the Jets was supported by Calandra's Bakery and by Clorox.
TASTE OF THE JETS RESTAURANT STATIONS
Benjamin Steakhouse 41st St
The Central Park Boathouse
Bin 37 @ Shoprite of Greater Morristown
Park Avenue Tavern
Tavern on Jane
Ben & Jack's Steakhouse
Slamwich Scratch Kitchen
Womens Marine Association