Clad in red jerseys and clutching their helmets, the Flushing High football team filled their school library last Tuesday morning where New York Jets owner Woody Johnson presented them with a $10,000 check to support their football program.
"We are proud to make this investment and to partner with the PSAL on the Heads Up! Program," said New York Jets owner Woody Johnson. "We must continue to ensure that New York City's children are afforded the same opportunities as students from across the country to participate in high school football programs. The New York Jets are committed to giving New York City's children the access to academic enrichment and exposure to sports and nutrition programs that they deserve."
Johnson was joined by New York Jet Victor Hobson who spoke to the kids about the importance of working hard and doing well in school. He then answered their questions which ranged from why he wanted to be a football player to his favorite academic subjects.
"If you are not focused in the classroom, you aren't going to be focused in anything you do," said Hobson. "But if you stay focused in the classroom where it all starts, football or whatever sport you want to play, everything will fall into place."
The grant was awarded to Flushing High as part of the Heads Up! Program – a partnership between the New York Jets and the New York City Department of Education which supports the development of teams throughout New York City. New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein introduced Woody Johnson to the school team and thanked the Jets for their unwavering support of high school football.
"Physical activity and participation in sports are an important part of growing up," said Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein. "Football helps many of our students stay active and involved through their high school years. The Heads Up! Program grants will make a real difference for teenagers who are excited about playing football this year. I thank Woody Johnson and the Jets for their support and their on-going commitment to giving our students this great opportunity."
Johnson also pledged to extend the Heads Up! Program into 2007 - committing to fund football programs for five additional New York City high schools and continuing to help recondition helmets for all student athletes.
This year, grants were also awarded to Infotech High School in Queens, FDR High School in Brooklyn and Petrides High in Staten Island, all of which are new or developmental teams. The four schools which received grants in 2005 include: Franklin K. Lane High School, Automotive High School, Alfred E. Smith High School and Wadleigh Arts High. New York Jet Shaun Ellis visited each of these schools during the 2005 season to provide inspiration for the players and the coaches.
In 2005, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and the New York Jets expanded their partnership to create the Heads Up! Program. Through a matching grant from the NFL's Youth Football Fund, the New York Jets donated $100,000 to the PSAL's football programs which helped recondition every helmet in the PSAL ensuring that more than 4,000 student athletes are safeguarded by reconditioned football helmets. In addition, the Heads Up! Program supports the development of teams at schools throughout New York City.
Beyond these grants, since 2001 the Jets have, and continue to, support the PSAL in a variety of other ways. In addition to providing funding, the Jets' support for the PSAL has included hosting PSAL high school football coaches at team practices, creating "Captain's Day" for PSAL football team captains to spend a day at training camp each summer, and honoring PSAL football champions at a selected home game during the NFL season.
In 2004, the Jets honored 75 players and coaches from the Sheepshead Bay High School football team with an on-field presentation during a game against the Houston Texans. In 2005, the Jets honored Fort Hamilton as the PSAL football champions on December 12th during a game against the Oakland Raiders.
Over 30,000 student athletes participate in the PSAL, with many playing multiple sports. In addition, over 180 schools are participating in the PSAL, represented by over 2,400 teams. 85 teams, including 43 varsity teams, are participating in the PSAL football program, with over 2,700 student athletes playing on the teams.
In addition to the Heads Up! Program, over the past six years, the New York Jets and their charitable foundation donated or raised more than $6 million to promote youth health, fitness, and education, particularly in disadvantaged communities. The Jets strive to create new opportunities - whether by launching the first football team in an urban high school, providing additional after school instruction in an underperforming school district, or encouraging students to take advantage of a free and healthy school meal.