By Brian Price, Reporter for SNY
The New York Jets have arguably been the most talked about team this off-season. A 2010 trip to the AFC championship, followed by several big off-season moves, and the opening of a new stadium already has the football world talking about a green Super Bowl. Additionally, HBO will be arriving at Jets training camp to feature the team on “Hard Knocks.” But despite all this attention, when it comes to the troops the Jets have remained grounded and humble. They were all eager to take a moment to offer words of thanks and to share some of their own connections to those serving in combat zones and disaster areas.
Jets running back Tony Richardson tells Brian Price about his connection to the military. (Photo courtesy of Ben Leit)
Brian Price: You have several family members in service.
Tony Richardson, #49, FB: Growing up in a military family was the best thing that ever happened to me. My father was a Vietnam veteran and lifelong military man. The little things that he taught me have always stuck with me: if I’m going to do something I’m going to give it 100%. Little things like always making my bed each morning strengthened my character and have carried over to my professional life. From a very young age I was always very disciplined.
My father was a model of consistency. Everyday he was up early, never complained, and his uniform was sharp. He was just the same guy everyday and that taught me a lot about doing things over and over again, but always doing them the right way.
My sister is still in service. She’s at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. She’s the same way and now teaching my nephew the same values.
Sometimes people look at us as being heroes but, and I say it all the time, the troops are America’s true heroes. Without them we couldn’t do our job and live our lives. They lay their lives on the line and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us. That’s what a true hero is.
Richardson’s father, Sergeant Major Ben Richardson, was a career army man. His sister, Shonn, is a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army. She’s in line for a promotion to E.A.
Kris Jenkins, #77, DT: My baby brother is part of the air division in Afghanistan. I’m always thinking about him and anybody else who’s serving. I’m just thankful and grateful and I hope they get home safe.
Whatever my biggest problem is, football related or not, it can’t compare to what he’s going through. He’s over there dodging bullets. They call him Goose, but his name is Chance McDaniel. He’s on his third tour so this will be his last one and we’re praying that he gets home safe.
Bart Scott, #57, LB: My father went to Vietnam, so I understand the pain of families and kids who have a loved one overseas. There’s no phrase or words that can be used to thank them enough. All we can do is say thank you and hope they know how much we’re praying for them and how much we appreciate them.
In sports, some say, “We’re going to war.” No. They’re going to war for real. Young men and women, college students, who have bright futures ahead of them and yet they’re willing to pay the ultimate price.
With the war having gone on for some time now people tend to forget because it’s not in the moment. The fact of the matter is there are still men and women over there continuing to fight and die for us. I just hope we get our troops back safely to their families. I appreciate that they’re willing to make a sacrifice that we could never imagine.
Mark Sanchez expresses his gratitude to the Troops with Price. (Photo Courtesy of Ben Leit)
BP: What goes through your mind during the National Anthem?
Mark Sanchez, #6, QB: During warm-ups I’m focused on the game, but it’s during those moments when the anthem is played that I can step away from the game, reflect and appreciate the opportunity to be able to play because of the sacrifices that so many have made.
On behalf of the New York Jets we just want to express our appreciation for our servicemen and women and everything you do for us. We’re with you and thank you for allowing us to have our freedom.
Damien Woody, #67, OT: Hearing the National Anthem is one of the most special moments on game day. Everything that’s happened in history and everything that’s going on today seems to build to that moment. We’re able to play these football games and live out our dreams. We know that while we play a game people are at war. It really makes me emotional in that moment. I’m not just speaking for myself on that. There are a lot of players in this locker room, and many others around in the NFL, who feel the same way.
Trust me, with a lot of family and friends in the service I understand what it takes to do that job. I don’t think I could do it myself. It’s a tough responsibility and it takes a special kind of person to serve. I’m just so appreciative of what they do. I feel privileged to play in the National Football League but a lot of the liberties that I have wouldn’t be possible without the ladies and gentlemen fighting overseas and doing what they do everyday to protect us from foreign combatants.
BP: You’ve spent time with the troops, right?
D’Brickashaw Ferguson, #60, OT: I had a chance to go out to Fort Wainwright in Alaska to speak with men and women of the army. Now I wasn’t on the front but I was on a base. I got a chance to meet not just troops but military families. It was a great opportunity to be face to face with some of the bravest people on earth. I think it was rewarding for them and we went there to show our support but I ended up learning a lot through the experience.
BP: Like what? How was your perspective changed?
DF: There’s still war going on but the news may turn its focus to other things. It’s important to always remain aware that there are still people risking their lives everyday for us whether we hear about it on the news or not.
BP: Do you have some words for our troops?
Calvin Pace, #97, LB: I just want to say thank you. Come home safe. Everybody appreciates what you do by putting your lives on the line, keeping us safe, and keeping us free. God bless.
Ladainian Tomlinson, #21, RB: Look, we’re entertainers that really give the people a chance to enjoy the freedom of watching the game. But from my perspective the troops are the reason we’re able to play this game. What they’re doing is keeping us safe. I maintain my perspective by always keeping an eye on what’s going on with the troops. We’re all so appreciative.
Danny Woodhead, #83, WR: They’re fighting with their lives to defend our country. The troops deserve all the credit they get, and they deserve even more. They can’t be praised enough. We play football and at times it may seem like a big deal but in the grand scheme of things what the troops do is way more important. Thanks for all you do. You make us proud.
Dustin Keller, #81,TE: You sometimes hear an athlete say: “We’re putting our bodies on the line,” or “ we’re going to war.” It’s a game. Our troops put their lives on the line for us. That always has to be appreciated. I have the utmost respect for those in the service.
Shonn Greene, #23, RB: I just appreciate the troops and everything that they do. A lot of people don’t realize how tough it is to be out there. With everybody else back here going about their lives they may not realize it. The troops are greatly appreciated and on behalf of the Jets organization I want to say thank you.
Dwight Lowery, #26, CB: They put their lives on the line for something that’s greater than themselves. We greatly admire and appreciate them. I’m not the type of guy that could go out and do what they do. I have nothing but respect for the troops.
Shaun Ellis, #92, DE: I want to thank the troops for supporting us, having our backs and keeping us safe. God Bless.
David Harris, #52, LB: Their service can’t be measured with words. They put their lives on the line everyday for you and me. We’re all so thankful for the liberties that we have today that the troops provide. Get home safe.
We would like to thank Brian Price of SNY for this post and we’d also like to thank Bruce Speight and the entire Jets front office for their help.