For one day at New York Jets Training Camp at SUNY Cortland, 8-year-old Paul Litchfield was the youngest member of the team.
He wasn’t listed on the roster and he didn’t suit up in green and white, but the soon-to-be third grader from Stratford, Conn., played a critical role as the team’s official jersey collector and the Gen Jets Kids Club Member of the Day.
The once-in-lifetime opportunity is the most recent promotion introduced at the team’s SUNY Cortland training camp.
At every one of the team’s five remaining practices at the College, one lucky young fan between the ages of 7 and 12 will be selected at random as the Gen Jets Kids Club Member of the Day. That youngster will tour the press box and locker room during practice, take in football action from the sidelines and work one of three behind-the-scenes positions — on-field photographer, water boy or girl during breaks or jersey collector at the end of practice, just like Litchfield.
|Paul Litchfield, right, assists defensive
tackle Damon Harrison in removing
the player’s shoulder pads after practice.
Training camp resumes Saturday, Aug. 9, and continues every day through Wednesday, Aug. 13, starting at 10 a.m. each day. Gates will open at 9 a.m.
“It was amazing,” said Eric Litchfield, Paul’s father. “Just going up there and being around training camp was going to be fun. But then having the opportunity to actually share that kind of experience was so great.”
To be selected, children must register with a parent by 9:30 a.m. at the Gen Jets Kids Club tent, located outside Jets Fest. Although only one young fan will be selected at each practice, the first 125 youngsters to register will earn entry into the end zone autograph area reserved exclusively for Gen Jets Kids Club members.
As players walked off the practice field last week, they handed their sweat-soaked jerseys and shoulder pads to Litchfield, who was wearing gloves to avoid germs. Wide receiver Eric Decker and quarterback Geno Smith offered fist bumps. Kicker Nick Folk and defensive tackle Damon Harrison — all 350 pounds of him — let the young equipment staff member pull off their shoulder pads.
Wide receiver Eric Decker
“(Paul) really got into his job, what he was supposed to be doing,” Eric Litchfield said. “He said all of the players were so nice to him.”
When the Gen Jets Kids Club Member of the Day serves as the day’s photographer, he or she shadows the team’s official photographer and snaps photos for the day’s Gen Jets Kids Club album. As a water boy or girl, a youngster delivers water bottles to the NFL stars. The three positions rotate through different days.
The Litchfields — Paul, his father Eric and his grandfather Jim — made the four-hour drive from Connecticut to attend practice last week Friday and the Green and White Scrimmage on Saturday. It marked the fourth SUNY Cortland camp they have attended and it proved to be the most memorable, thanks mostly to the new perk offered to young Jets fans.
“We really love it in Cortland,” said Eric Litchfield, explaining that they also are able to visit family members who live nearby. “The way the town embraces the team, it seems like a really great environment.”