Nick Mangold and Leon Washington took a ride into Manhattan today, stopped by the Jets' city office, suited up in full pads and their Titans throwback uniforms and literally crossed the street to get to a Delta lounge — SKY360°.
"That was a little different," Mangold said. "You probably won't see me do that again, not for a long while. It's funny. You do that same thing in front of 80,000 people every Sunday, but when it's just you and another guy in the middle of New York, it's kind of different."
The familiar green and white was gone and replaced by navy and old gold at today's news conference. Mangold and Washington, accompanied by members of the New York Jets Flight Crew, posed for photos but only after dodging city traffic.
"There were plenty of crazy stares. No one really said anything," said Mangold, a second-year center. "There were a couple of 'good lucks this weekend.' "
The Jets will honor the Titans, members of the American Football League from 1960-62, Sunday at the Meadowlands when they host the Philadelphia Eagles. The jerseys are blue with gold numbers and on each shoulder a pair of white stripes flanking a gold stripe. The pants are gold with a blue stripe in between a couple of white stripes down each leg.
"I like them a lot," Washington said. "What I'm looking forward to is just having a different look on the field and watching the guys having fun with it. I know guys are going to want to go out there and look good. It will be a good look for us. Hopefully it will change the attitude a little bit."
Jets president Jay Cross kicked off the event before handing off to Bob Wischusen, the team's play-by-play voice.
"Every once in a while it's appropriate to look back, and I think everybody is really excited about Titans week," Cross said. "It's an important part of our past, those early, gritty years."
Four New York legends —Gerald Eskenazi and Dave Anderson of The New York Times; Bill Gallo, cartoonist and columnist for the New York Daily News, and painter LeRoy Nieman handled questions from Wischusen. The 15-minute discussion was entertaining and provided a good view of yesteryear.
Harry Wismer, a nationally known broadcaster who became the president of the Titans, used to meet with other AFL owners at his residence on Park Avenue. Besides hosting press conferences, Wismer was busy trying to get people to attend his club's games.
"One of the first meetings of the American Football League owners was literally in Harry Wismer's apartment. That's where the press conferences were. They didn't have money to spend for a hotel ballroom," Anderson said. "His bedroom, you'd walk in and there'd be piles of tickets. His bedroom was a ticket office. Very few people actually went to the game, so it was not a problem."
Eskenazi, former Jets beatwriter for the Times and author of "Gang Green," talked about how teams would try to save money on road trips.
"The league itself was a shoestring league. When the Boston Patriots came to New York, they would take the train and arrive at the hotel at, say, one in the afternoon and they'd spend four hours in the hotel," he said. "If they turned the sheets over, they would get charged four dollars extra for the room, so they never turned the sheets over. They went right to the game and then they took the train home at night."
The early days of the AFL were marked by small crowds and little media interest.
"I know no one on the Times really wanted to cover the Titans except the ones who felt they weren't getting a fair shot anywhere else," Eskenazi said.
The Titans were competitive in their first two seasons, finishing each campaign 7-7. They fell to 5-9 in 1962, a year in which the AFL assumed the costs of running the Titans after Wismer was unable to meet his payroll.
"The Titans had some good players," Anderson said. "Don Maynard was of the best receivers and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They had Bill Mathis, who was a very good running back. Larry Grantham was an undersized linebacker who was an All-AFL player and was really the defensive captain of the Jets, and Curley Johnson, who was a punter and placekicker. Those four players went on to play for the Super Bowl Jets in 1968."
All four of the aforementioned players will be honored at halftime of Sunday's game. They became Jets when a five-man syndicate headed by David A. "Sonny" Werblin purchased the team for $1 million on March 28, 1963.
"Sonny Werblin came along and changed the colors to match his birthdate, which was St. Patrick's Day. The Jets are green and white as you know," Eskenazi said. "The rest is history, along with Joe Namath's knees."
Washington, the Jets' kickoff return man who is making history himself, praised the Titans and all of the early AFL pioneers.
"These guys paved the way for us to play this game of football — not only in New York City with the Jets but all over the league. You have to credit these guys who you kind of overlook. As a player, they have your respect."
In a way, you could say the Titans helped the Jets cross the street.
Titans merchandise and a Jets History DVD are now available at the Jets Shop online. The celebration of Titans Throwback Day will continue after the game. Jets fans will have the opportunity to bid on a limited number of signed helmets as well as game-worn jerseys. All proceeds from the auctions will benefit the New York Jets Foundation.