Bruce Harper is a giving and forgiving kind of guy. Harper, the former Jets running back, lost his franchise single-season all-purpose-yardage record set in 1978 to Leon Washington in 2008, but he still was chagrined to see Washington leave in a trade with Seattle during last month’s draft. Yet he still remains a big fan of the facelifting his former team has done at his former position.
"I know it’s old hat now, but I was so disappointed Leon had to go to the next team," Harper told me before heading out to the first tee at a local golfcourse Monday. "He reminded me of myself.
"But business is business. I am excited about LaDainian Tomlinson. He is a great back and anytime you go to another team, you’ve got to prove yourself all over again. I think he’s going to come in like a hungry rookie wanting to show his wares.
"And Shonn Greene is hungry, too, man. He had a great season last year. We saw a lot of potential. There’s no reason to think he can’t come out and do the same thing. He wants it. You can tell he wants it."
Harper also has his eye on another Jet in the backfield, now third-year man Danny Woodhead.
"I like Danny, too," he said. "I saw him at practice and I was impressed. I’m rooting for him."
It must have something to do with players who come in at under 5’10" but whose hearts are off the charts.
As for the current team, said the man who once blurred by in his green and white No. 42 jersey, "They just give you the feeling they want to win and they want to win right now.".
We could have talk to Bruce about the Jets all morning, but there was that round of golf and then it was back to his full-time job these days, which is tending to the growing popularity of the Heroes & Cool Kids school mentoring program that he started in the late Nineties.
"We have former pro athletes like me, former college athletes, and we go into the high schools and ask them to select 30 ‘Good Kids,’ " Harper explained. "We have a curriculum book we work through. We train them to be mentors to fifth- and sixth-grade kids. And then they actually go back to the elementary schools they came from."
Having started with three schools in the 1998-99 school year, the program, which focuses on lifeskills learned through sports, sportsmanship/civility and substance abuse prevention, is now in 50 school districts. Five more districts are set to join up in the fall and the plans are to expand into New York’s Rockland and Westchester counties.
"This is our 12th year and this year we’ve worked with 17,000 students, high school and elementary school kids," he said. "I feel real good about what we’ve been able to accomplish."
He’s not alone. In February, Bergen County executive Dennis McNerney presented commendations to Heroes & Cool Kids as the county’s Organization of the Year and to Harper as its Person of the Year.
To keep H&KC going and growing, the group holds its primary fundraiser every summer — not surprisingly — on the links. The eighth annual Bruce Harper’s Heroes & Cool Kids Golf Invitational is set for June 28 at the Edgewood Country Club in River Vale, N.J. Registration and brunch begin at 9 a.m. followed by a shotgun start to the tourney at 11.
You can call 201-641-0699 or email email@example.com to become a celebrity guest or to get more information. And if you can make the event, you’ll be assisting the former Jets star back and kick returner and current "Hero" and good guy who says of this enterprise, "It’s just a little thing I do trying to help out."
Tags: Bruce Harper, Danny Woodhead, LaDainian Tomlinson, Leon Washington
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