EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – On their first day in their new home, the New York Jets honored their past.
At halftime of their preseason game with the other tenant of the $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium, the Jets opened their Ring of Honor by inducting Joe Namath, Don Maynard, Weeb Ewbank — all Pro Football Hall of Famers — Curtis Martin, Winston Hill and Joe Klecko.
Namath, of course, led the franchise to its only championship, winning the 1969 Super Bowl over the Colts. Maynard was his favorite receiver and Hill was a tackle on that team, which Ewbank coached.
Martin was a star running back for seven seasons and led the league in rushing in 2004. Klecko was a Pro Bowl player at every defensive line position.
" I think it's a very nice honor for all of the guys in it and the guys who will go in it," Namath said. "I watch TV and I watch games and I see other teams have honored some of their past players and coaches, and now's the time, with the new stadium, it's the right time."
The Jets have shared a stadium for nearly all of their 50 years, either with the Mets at Shea Stadium or the Giants at the Meadowlands. This time, they are co-owners of the building, and Namath senses it feels like home.
"What's most important is if that's the way the players feel, and from what I'm hearing, that's what the players do feel here," he said. "They're very excited about feeling as if they're going to their own home stadium as opposed to when it was the other place."
The Jets had the distinction of hosting the first NFL game in the stadium, even if the Giants were the opposition. When the real season begins Sept. 12, the Giants will play Carolina. The next night, the Jets host Baltimore.
"Everything's going to turn green in this stadium while we're here," Klecko said while sporting a green blazer with Ring of Honor emblazoned on it. "And to be home in a place you can actually call your own, and call it Jets Stadium — it says it everywhere. Just walk out there and it says it's the Jets' stadium.
"When I used to walk in and I saw Giants Stadium, I used to block it out. I was going to work. It was, 'Get out of my way, I'm going to work. I've got a job to do.' When you go home, you're home for Mom's cooking. Now, they can come home to Mom's cooking here."