By Richard Adragna
Jets Staff Writer
May 3rd, 2008
Top draft pick Vernon Gholston participates in drills during Jets rookie minicamp. (Jets Photo)
Top draft pick Vernon Gholston participates in drills during Jets rookie minicamp. (Jets Photo)
The month of May has just begun, but the weather outside the confines of Weeb Ewbank Hall in Hempstead is reminiscent of football-type conditions in November as the Jets’ rookies took part in their mini-camp.

During the 40-minute span given to the media for access to the mini-camp, the team largely took part in unit drills, stretching, tackling drills, and special teams work. Although this was a predictably routine day during that time, head coach Eric Mangini did state in his post-camp presser that the best part of the day was seeing the players grasp the information given to them from Day 1.

“The volume of information that these guys are dealing with is catching up to them a little bit and it is a completely different world for all of them,” he explained. “I liked their approach and they’ve been conscientious and working hard. We’ve opened up a whole new box of information.”

There is no doubt that the past few days have been something of a rude awakening for all of the players taking part in the mini-camp. Day 2, however, allows all involved to take in the information without the struggle to grasp that usually occurs on the first day.

“Day one because you don’t know what you’re in for,” said QB Erik Ainge. “You take all that information in and you come out today, everything makes a little more sense. There’s a lot more information, but it makes more sense.”

First-round draft pick TE Dustin Keller and undrafted rookie RB Danny Woodhead also chimed in on their experiences so far.

“That’s why you got to study the playbook if you don’t do that it’s going to be really tough because it’s already tough even looking at the stuff. You just got to try to stay focused,” said Woodhead.

Added Keller, “I would say kind of just from the perspective of installing a whole bunch of the offense. It’s about two weeks worth of stuff that we installed in two days. It’s a major change.”

The amount of information taken in by the newbies over the past two days is vast, not to mention how much of a chore it is to do so at first. Nevertheless, it is very vital for the players’ chances on taking their game to the next level in the NFL.


Pride of the Jets

Among the list of names on Gang Green’s rookie mini-camp roster, three of those names stand out especially to Long Islanders. WR Charles Sullivan, RB Kareem Huggins, and G Shawn McMackin have spent their collegiate careers on Hofstra University’s campus.

Huggins was the school’s leading rusher, gaining a net total of 957 yards and nine touchdowns. Sullivan was the top receiver for the Pride in his senior campaign, making 86 receptions for 991 yards and seven touchdowns. McMackin, meanwhile, was an integral part of the offensive line for Hofstra.

To be asked to try out by an NFL team is one thing. To be asked by an NFL team that does its business within the university campus (at least for one more year) to try out is something else. Regardless, it’s exciting to be a part of a try-out with an NFL team, as McMackin exemplified.

“I was stoked. When you’re watching these guys when you get here as a freshman and you see guys like Curtis Martin out practicing, it’s cool and everything,” said McMackin. “Now you’re here and maybe someone talks about you like that. It is a dream.”

Coach Mangini has also taken notice of the Hofstra players, and likes what he sees from the trio, saying that their qualities are “a testament to them and a testament to the coaching staff at Hofstra.”

“They’ve all been very conscientious, worked extremely hard, and seem well-coached and disciplined,” he said. “I like that about the group. They’ve done a good job collectively and individually.”

Although it is doubtful any one of these individuals will make the kind of impact fellow Pride alums Wayne Chrebet and Marques Colston have made in years past, the chances for them to make the most out of their time in the NFL is great enough.

An Exclusive Fraternity

With the selection of LB Vernon Gholston in this year’s NFL Draft, the Jets have made him the 10th Ohio State University player to be taken in the Draft in the team’s history. Among the list of names include two current Jets, Mike Nugent and Nick Mangold.

Surely, the prospects of playing alongside fellow Buckeyes is something of a thrill for the 1st round pick Gholston.

“It’s a fortunate situation. They’re people I’m familiar with and know from playing back at Ohio State,” he stated. “Hopefully we have the same camaraderie that we did there here.”

Along with that chance, Gholston will learn from second-year veteran David Harris, a Michigan alum. No worries, he said with a chuckle at the thought of it.

“In the NFL, there are a lot of situations where you’re going to have Ohio State and Michigan guys on the same team. You don’t really get into that. Hopefully you’re here for the same goal and that’s your teammate at this point.”

Veteran Influence

Along with the plethora of rookies and tryout hopefuls at this year’s mini-camp, seven roster players were present as well, such as WR David Ball and P Jeremy Kapinos.

According to Coach Mangini, regardless of the level of experience, everyone in attendance has a similar goal in mind.

“[The roster players] do have an edge over the other group, but they’re all in the same room together,” he said. “It does give them some idea of where they’re headed and what the possibilities are.”

Grapplers Need Not Apply

Last year’s mini-camp provided a variety of individuals who were experienced not just on the football field. Among those invited were those with various athletic backgrounds, especially wrestling.

This year, however, there haven’t been much grapplers suited in green. When asked how this was the case, Mangini offered an excuse.

“The Olympics are killing us,” he said with laughter. “We looked.”

PHOTO GALLERY: For exclusive Jets Minicamp photos CLICK HERE

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