There will be no games played this weekend, but there are two very important Jets events on the slate.
On Saturday, Eric Mangini will host his seventh annual charity football camp in his hometown of Hartford, Conn. Mangini says he’s anticipating 800 kids, representing about 35 different towns, and 128 coaches.
The Jets’ 37-year-old head coach attended Bulkeley HS and will return there tomorrow. There are a lot of problems that children face in his native community and Mangini, a bright mind and fierce competitor with an unbelievable work ethic, is deeply affected by their plight.
“Every year I see these kids. Unfortunately the stories don’t get better — they get worse,” he said Thursday. “A little boy last year was late. I asked him why he was late and he had been to the funeral of a friend of his. The child was 15 years old and had been shot in the face and killed.
“We’ve got to find some way to get these kids to pick up books instead of guns. We’ve got to find them some way to get in the schools instead of, unfortunately, in jails. It’s our responsibility.”
One of Mangini’s most admirable qualities is his civic-mindedness. He is a talented man who by design is guarded (competitive advantage is the main reason) and, I’ve often thought, misunderstood by fans. While he is completely committed to his football team, he loves his family and does some fantastic things for the community far away from the cameras. He keeps those things private and that’s a tribute to him.
But tomorrow, many members of the media will be on hand as Mangini attempts to reach out to his people. He is a success story from his diverse neighborhood, but he is using his platform to try to create more success stories.
“It’s incredibly satisfying to be able to help out and to be able to effect change. It’s something I learned from my father. He was very involved,” he said. “He did a lot of work with homeless shelters for men, trying to get those men back on track, give them an opportunity to straighten things out and get back on their feet.
“Probably the most dramatic story I remember is when we went to a play at the Hartford Stage Company. We were walking out and there was a homeless man. My dad gave him his jacket. I was young at the time but I’ll never forget it. We have to give more people jackets. We have to give more kids chances.”
Then on Sunday, 52 New York Jets Flight Crew hopefuls will have their final opportunity to impress FC director Denise Garvey and gameday ops director Brian Mulligan at the final auditions. The event, which will be held at Marc Ecko Enterprises in NYC, is CLOSED to the public.
Sorry, I didn’t make the rules. But newyorkjets.com will be on hand with Al Pereira taking photos and Rich Gentile heading the video coverage. By Sunday evening, 21 Flight Crew members will be chosen from an original pool of more than 250 by a panel of celebrity judges. The final member will be chosen by you guys and ladies in an online vote. (By the way, we featured each of the finalists this week with personality snapshots, so feel free to browse the site.)
The celebrity judges include Ecko, Danielle Monaro of the Z100 Morning Zoo, Jets alum Greg Buttle , NY Daily News contributor Jo Piazza, IMG Fashion’s Fern Mallis and a pair of charity-auction-winning Jets fans.
I’ll also be on hand, huddling up with Garvey and Mulligan as they make their decisions. If they ask for input, I’ll let them know what I think but dance isn’t my area of expertise.
If Ecko has wireless capabilities inside his building, you’ll hear from me sometime during the day. In any event, we’ll have a story up Monday on the 2008 Flight Crew along with photos.
Tags: Brian Mulligan, Denise Garvey, Eric Mangini, Flight Crew, Greg Buttle
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