Before coming out to practice Sunday night, Willie Colon and Stephen Bowen took a moment in the locker room to reminisce about the times they took the field at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium on a regular basis.
No, they weren't teammates on the Jets when the team practiced at the school, but they did play together on the Pride. A lot has changed in the decade since Colon and Bowen took the field in blue and white -- Hofstra, for instance, doesn't have a football team anymore -- but some things have stayed exactly the same.
For one thing, Bowen still gets a jolt when he steps in front of the crowd.
"It's a dream come true," Bowen said. "Every kid from New York dreams of playing for the home team and to actually have a chance to do it, I can't even put it into words."
The Jets held a walk-through practice a block away from their old practice field -- the one they used until 2008, before moving to Cortland and, eventually, Florham Park. The team billed it as Family Night, and local families were more than willing to support the cause. More than 11,000 fans attended the festivities, which included an interactive theme park for kids and a chance for autographs after practice.
"I always love coming back to Hofstra and seeing my roots," Colon said before noting with nostalgia that he wished there was still a college football team to come back to. "It is [sad]. It is what it is at this point. I still defend it to the death. People think we were an ice skating team rather than a football team at times, but lacrosse is holding it now, so Go Hofstra!"
Added coach Todd Bowles: "It's been a while since [the Jets] left here, so we've got a lot of loyal fans. They came out here to see these guys and we really appreciate it."
D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who grew up about five miles south of Hofstra in Freeport, said coming back home "feels great." He got some of the loudest cheers of the night when the Jets did roll call at the outset of practice.
"The fans were great today," he said. "I was glad that we could come out here. We almost had a scrimmage today, so it was pretty good. It was pretty fun."
And though Colon, who joined the Jets in 2013, never got a chance to practice with his NFL team at Hofstra, he said he had fond memories of watching the Jets of old practice near the bubble across the street.
"Long Island supports us," he said. "When I was here . . . they'd have big crowds come out [for the Jets] . . . It's awesome."