A couple of days after the Jets got their season off on the right foot with a win in Miami, three of their defensive backs celebrated in a meaningful way. Darrelle Revis, David Barrett and Justin Miller weren't rejoicing over the victory, though — they were celebrating life with a visit to Goryeb Children's Hospital at Morristown Memorial.
After exchanging pleasantries and signing autographs for an excited staff, the trio of Jets worked their way to the elevator and the top floor.
"The kids on the third floor are in-patients, so they're kids who will be here overnight and a lot of times many nights," said Lisa Ciarrocca, the hospital's child life manager. "We also have our pediatric intensive care unit up here and those are some of our more critical patients, so we always start up here first so we can get to all those patients and then we'll take them through the other clinic area that we have here."
Miller, a kid at heart, was wound up even before they got to Room 301 and Theo. In the hallway, Miller playfully referred to Barrett as "Super Dave." Revis explained the nickname to staffers: "Because he's built like an action figure. You should see his calves."
When they reached Theo, Miller and Revis got close to the youngster and struck up a conversation. They asked a number of questions, signed some autographs and began their 2½-hour stay with energy.
"This is good for us. We just moved over here. We're trying to get used to the area," Revis said. "It's just good to meet those kids and go around the community and get familiar with it."
Next up was Nolan, a 14-year-old multisport athlete from Bridgewater, N.J. When healthy, he's out playing soccer, wrestling and even participating in football, but the runner's best sport is cross-country.
Nolan hasn't felt well lately and he's spent the past six weeks in the hospital. On Monday, he had surgery and he's continuing to battle a serious illness. He was fatigued Tuesday and had a hat covering his head, but he warmed up when he was told the Jets would be stopping by his room.
"He has been lying on his back for most of the morning. But he was told an hour ago that they'd be coming in and he dressed up as much as he could," said Ulla, Nolan's tearful mother, while looking at her son's green shorts.
If Revis, Miller and Barrett can inspire just a couple of kids and help produce a positive environment for a few patients, then the trip was well worth it.
"I think that everyone who has come has been wonderful, but I'm amazed by the fact that they are unfazed by what they see," Ciarrocca said of the Jets' trifecta. "They don't see the illnesses — they see the child in front of them. To me, when you're a professional sports figure, what comes with that is the responsibility to come back and the Jets have just given back since the time they have arrived in New Jersey."
While Revis and Miller are outgoing, Barrett tends to be reserved. He's a 30-year-old father of one who enjoyed his experience with the kids.
"For us to be able to bring to some excitement to them, that's a joyful thing for me," he said.
In addition to visiting with the patients, the players mingled with the staffers. Working at a hospital isn't an easy job and at times it can be emotionally draining and thankless.
"Our staff is just so proud to be affiliated with the Jets. Our department wears green when they come and there's a Jets day," Ciarrocca said. "It feels good for everyone and I think it feels good because the players reciprocate. They sign autographs for the staff as well because they work hard. It gives them a little pep to meet them when they otherwise wouldn't be able to meet them. It's win-win for everybody."
Before they departed for the day, Miller put on those familiar light blue doctor scrubs, some medical booties and a medical mask. He said he could be called either Dr. J or Dr. Miller and asked everyone to sign his scrubs.
"I'm currently in between courses. I'm working at this hospital," he said with that trademark J-Mill grin. "I have to go see a patient in a few. That's my goal. I'm trying to fit in and help wherever possible."
Revis, just 23 years old, plays like a savvy vet and is a pro away from the gridiron. He came up with an amazing takeaway against the Dolphins, then he and his fellow DBs chose to give their hearts away a couple days later.
"I went into a couple of rooms and people didn't know I got the game-winning interception," he said. "They knew that somebody got it, but they didn't know. Once Justin or David said it was me, it was like, 'Wow, you're really here.'
"But it's like 'Yeah, I'm here, happy to be in your presence. I'm coming here to say hi.' "