FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Don't let anyone tell you New York Jets fans aren't loyal. Not when 7,500 of them turned out on a Saturday morning to give coach Rex Ryan's crew one last boost before leaving for Pittsburgh. It was early. It was freezing. It didn't matter.
Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum spoke as part of the raucous rally and send-off, which was held from 9 a.m.-noon at their training facility. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and superfan Fireman Ed spoke as well.
The Jets (13-5) meet the Steelers (13-4) in the AFC Championship game on Sunday. It'll be their second straight appearance in the title game, and an optimistic sea of green and white feels this might just be their year.
Bill Martino, a Long Island native, has been a Jets fan since Jan. 12, 1969. That was the day, of course, the Jets defeated the Colts, 16-7, in Super Bowl III. He was listening to the game while serving in the Army in Vietnam. He's never wavered since.
"I've been waiting for this to happen to the New York Jets," he said, "for an awfully long time."
Martino, a true die-hard who's been to every game this season, reflected the mood of many at the rally. He was quick to sing the praises of Tannenbaum and Ryan. And why not? Since the duo joined forces, the Jets are 20-12 in the regular season, and have won four playoff games.
"Woody Johnson, Mike Tannenbaum, and Rex Ryan have changed the entire culture of this franchise," he said. "It really feels good to be a Jet fan."
It's hard to argue. First of all, they made the playoffs in a year where their neighbors, the Giants, didn't. Then the Jets went out and defeated Peyton Manning and the Colts, followed by Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Now, it's Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers standing in the way of the Jets' second Super Bowl appearance.
"There could be a trip to Dallas in my future," Martino said, referring to the site of this season's Super Bowl. "You never know."