The views expressed here are those of Eric Allen of the New York Jets. All other views are those of Gang Green Nation and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the New York Jets.
It won't be long now until Rex Ryan will turn to his wife, Michelle, and recite that line. It is hard to believe that Rex is entering his sixth season as head coach of the Jets while I am heading into my 14th training camp with the Green & White and my 15th year in the National Football League.
Late next week, I will pack my bags. After a weekend visit to my parents in Buffalo, NY, I will be at SUNY Cortland on July 23 when players report for training camp.
I know how blessed I am to be in this position, reporting on an NFL team every day and interacting with an extremely passionate fanbase. My mother reminds me of my good fortune any time I slip into the popular world of negativity. After all, she was there each summer when my dad would drive me to SUNY Fredonia for Buffalo Bills training camp practices.
My favorite childhood memories of camp were the interactions I had with the players. Sure we watched the workouts, but I vividly remember lining up along the fence line and asking for autographs and photos. Sad to say, I have no idea where the autographs went. But I hope my mom still has my photos with Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith.
As a kid, I got all my football information via the Buffalo News, the radio and football preview magazines. That was a different time void of the NFL club sites, all day SportsCenter, Twitter, Facebook, etc... If I had access to everything that is out there now, I don't know if I ever would have made it through school.
And now as a long-term Jets employee, my challenge is to help provide the fan better access. There are so many outlets that cover the Jets and the competitive nature of our market has made everyone that much better.
Although we will have camp practice reports, there are only so many things we can tell you about what happened at each workout. It's a fine line - especially on Twitter. I catch myself asking, ‘Am I just really flooding peoples' news feeds with the same information they are getting from 15 other sources?'
I try to provide my voice and be sincere while not taking myself too seriously. What kind of service am I providing the fan if I chart the throws of Geno and Vick on a daily basis and I don't know the context? You won't see me throwing around too many QB numbers because unless I have a practice script in front of me - I don't know if the drill is focused on the deep ball and the coaches are demanding the signal callers to get the ball down the field.
Access has to be at the heart of what we do. One of my favorite features early in camp is "Jets Cribs" as we take our cameras inside the Cortland dorms to see how Jets players are living. Players and coaching micings are unique and never get old. I would like to arrange more film review sessions with the players and coaches, so they can explain the intricacies of what happened and why. How ‘bout a segment of Cold Tub TV or a cafeteria feature? Can we push for live hits out from the Green & White practice?
Our 1-on-1 interviews will continue to be a staple. My job is to ask the question that you tell me to ask and the one I think you want asked. And then it is my responsibility to let a player or coach answer it however they deem fit. I want to be an extension of you. It is an honor to be there on a daily basis while others' bust their hump working overtime just to get a free Saturday to drive 200 miles and take the family to camp.
My dog days of summer consist of an early morning workout with Charles Wande, a community relations representative who played football at Marist and is strong as an ox. Then I grab breakfast on the run, get cleaned up and head out for the Cortland fields. I take in the morning practice and then begin collecting content during the allotted media session. Coach Ryan follows with his daily news briefing and then it is back to the lab for video production and writing.
Depending on the day, we might circle back to a Cortland studio for a 1-on-1 interview or head to the dorms for something behind the scenes. Then to keep the mind fresh, I might hit an aerobic workout at night. Stairs right before the team's late walk-through are my favorite. Various radio stations want to talk Jets, so we try to work that in our daily schedule as well. I am excited to start a partnership this year with Miller Lite as they will be connected to our fan Q&A twitter series that will be called "Make Your Case."
Close to two decades removed from college, dorm life is a grind and the back doesn't love the mattress. The bonding is real though and I can understand why Rex has always liked getting the guys out of town. What makes this job special is the relationships you build with the coaches, the scouts, the players and your business ‘mates. Being a Jet is just part of who I am.
A few grays have settled in, but I'm still the same pup whose heart started beating extra fast when my dad loaded me into the car for a camp practice. Instead of asking for a photo with Jim Kelly or telling Bruce Smith to flex, I'm asking Geno Smith about what coverage he saw or telling Muhammad Wilkerson to describe his bull rush.
It is my belief that the two things you need in life are love and hope. And that is why I think I am in this profession. Training camp is the signal of a beginning of another season and with it comes a great anticipation. Jets Football is indeed here and that's a wonderful thing.