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Jets Hold 14th Annual Kickoff Luncheon

Posted Aug 27, 2014

Rex Ryan Tells Gathering at Cipriani's in Lower Manhattan, "This Is Our Time"

The New York Jets, in addition to celebrating the start of their 2014 season, took time before boarding the team buses to Philadelphia today to support the New York Jets Foundation and the Alliance for Lupus Research, raising more than $700,000 at their 14th annual Kickoff Luncheon on Wednesday.

Players, coaches, alumni, the Flight Crew Cheerleaders and the the Aviators Drum Line joined hundreds of fans at Cipriani Wall Street’s banquet hall in lower Manhattan.

Jets chairman and CEO Woody Johnson, who founded ALR in 1999 after his daughter was diagnosed with lupus, thanked those who are a part of ALR for their work and dedication in finding a cure for the disease.

“They’re part of the winning team,” said Johnson, co-chair of the event, “that are actually going to make a huge difference in the 1.5 million people, mostly women, who have lupus.”

G Willie Colon has been personally touched by the autoimmune disease. His mother is one of those 1.5 million Americans suffering from lupus.

“She was diagnosed roughly when I was in the first grade,” Colon told the gathering. “I’ve watched this woman fight, crawl and never make any excuses raising me and my family.”

That experience of helping his mother, he said, is a major factor in his effort to help in any way he can. Colon said that he’s gladly participated in two ALR walks in hopes of finding a cure.

“Being face to face with some of these people just gives me fire. It makes me continue to fight for them — the ALR, their doctors, their research, their passion, their strength and their guidance,” he said, “I’m just blessed to be a part of them, honestly. Anything I can do, from the bottom of my heart to push the fight, I’m willing to do.”

Colon's experience has touched his teammates in green and white who were introduced along with him at the luncheon.

"We all know how important this is for Willie and his family," QB Geno Smith told senior reporter Randy Lange. "He's a part of our family, so it's important for me as well. and we support him. It's the reason why we give back, to be that helping hand and to be that extended family for people in need."

Master of ceremonies Bob Wischusen introduced all the Jets coaches and 75 players — staying in character despite C Nick Mangold's annual shenanigans and rookie LB Trevor Reilly's tuxedo modeling, complete with cummerbund.

And head coach Rex Ryan, who drew the biggest cheers at the event, introduced K Nick Folk, Smith and S Dawan Landry to speak briefly on each of the Jets' units as they prepare for the Eagles on Thursday night and then for the Raiders in the Sept. 7 season opener.

"Believe me, I can't wait to get going," Ryan told the room. "And the funny thing is the rest of the country, they don't know. But the great thing is we're getting ready to move. We've been talking about it, that it's here and this is our time."

A number of Jets alumni were in attendance at the luncheon, among them WR Wayne Chrebet, CB Bobby Jackson, Super Bowl participants John Schmitt, John Dockery and Mike D'Amato, TE Jim McKinstry from the early Sixties and RB John Nitti from the early Eighties. Former team president Steve Gutman also was in attendance.




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