I was fortunate enough to go to the day session of Jets House, a fan experience where players and coaches past and present interact with the fans. The event was held at Cafe Lugo, located just outside of One Penn Plaza by Penn Station. The restaurant is small lending an intimacy to the event. It was an all-inclusive admission with food, drink and interaction included. Also included is access to the 50/50 Club which is a club, a lounge, a food area and entertainment center. The event will continue through Sunday evening.
It was very well done by the Jets PR staff who had different levels of interaction going on simultaneously. Nick Folk started the day greeting fans, having conversations, taking pictures and signing autographs. Then Eric Allen led a question and answer session for Folk and while that was going on Emerson Boozer just quietly walked through the door and mingled with the crowd. It was pretty special to see a Superbowl III ring although it is paltry by today’s gaudy standards. Boozer then had his own question and answer session.
Freeman McNeil, who was not even advertised to be there, just came in and sat down at the bar. Not many people recognized him but I was fortunate enough to have a nice conversation with him about his Jets career as well as his part in the court case that ended up creating free agency in the NFL. By then, Joe Klecko was taking pictures and signing autographs on one side of the room and Marvin Jones was walking around before his autograph session. Ray Mickens was walking around chatting and taking pictures as well. Every Jet there was extremely nice and accommodating. The staff went out of their way to make sure everyone had a good time.
The main event of the day session was Rex Ryan. The coach was introduced to a raucous ovation and then proceeded to have a 30 minute Q & A. Some of his more interesting answers were (paraphrasing all):
On Quinton Coples: He can be special we haven’t seen the best of him. He has more to give and we will get it out of him. (while smiling)
On the young defensive core: They are all around 24-25 years old (Wilkerson, Coples, Richardson, Harrison, Ellis) and they are going to be a handful for the league in the next 10 years.
On Dee Milliner: This is a young man who did not participate in most of training camp due to some injuries and had to step right into a tough situation but look what he did in the last month of the season winning Defensive Rookie of the Month and everything. Just like I said. (giant grin on face)
On what position the team is going to draft in the 1st round: Defensive line (everyone laughs including him). They would run John and I out of town if we did that.
On Geno Smith: Talked about his improvement as the year went on, spoke of the revolving door of receivers, the fact that Jeremy Kerley was a lot more important than even “we” thought because we were 0-4 without him.
On whether Rob Ryan’s success with Kenny Vaccaro changed his opinion of the value in the safety position: Said that we already have a player like that here in Antonio Allen, spoke of his work against Gronkowski, his development from basically a linebacker in the Spur position at South Carolina.
On whether the team wanted to bring Ed Reed back: He said that he wants to bring all of his players back, mentioned his three interceptions in seven games but he was most valuable in the classroom to the safeties and corners. He has said in other interviews that Milliner especially benefitted from Ed Reed’s presence.
After the question and answer session Ryan signed autographs and took pictures. Kenrick Ellis spent the morning in the 50/50 Club and was the only person I did not get to see.
Overall it was a terrific experience with almost a family atmosphere with Jets fans talking and eating with other Jets fans, players and coaches in a small setting. Everyone who was there was genuinely happy to be there and it was worth every penny.