Hofstra will always be home to the Jets.
That was Rex Ryan's message about the former site of Jets training camp after the team's walkthrough practice and "Family Night" event there Thursday night.
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It was a good turnout for the Jets, who estimated 11,000 fans attended the event -- the first on the Island since 2010.
"It's been a long time since we've been back, but it's good, man," Freeport native and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said. "It's a feeling of nostalgia, but it's good that we have strong fans that let us know we're still loved out here. It's always good to be back home."
Hofstra served as the Jets' training camp location until 2008. Since then, they've gone to SUNY Cortland every year since Ryan became coach in 2009, except the lockout-shortened 2011 season. And local fans are hoping the team will soon return to their roots.
According to sources, Farmingdale State is on the list of possible camp locations for the Jets. But the team still is in the early phases of scouting possible spots. Said Ryan: "I know one thing, Hofstra will always be a part of, and this area will always be a proud part of our tradition. And if we get a chance to come out here then we like that, whether it's a day or whatever."
Although many of the Jets players were unaware of the team's connections to the Island, Hofstra product Willie Colon was in his element at Shuart Stadium. "It was fun. It brought back some old memories," said Colon, who played on Hofstra's now-defunct football team.
The guard said Ryan and his teammates "heckled him" about his jersey number (No. 77) not being retired. "But Mr. [John] Schmitt has it," he said with a smile about the former Jets center, who played 10 seasons and started in Super Bowl III. "It's an honor to be back, especially back with the guys. It's fun."
Jets fan Jim Tsaveras of Massapequa, who attended last night's event with his 10-year-old son, Nicholas, said the Jets should move camp back to Long Island.
"That's where they began," said Tsaveras, 48. "This is where their main fan base is from."
And players and coaches alike felt the love Thursday night.
Said Ferguson: "It's always good to come back and get the type of support and love that we had while we were here."
With Nick Klopsis