FLORHAM PARK – Ricky Lorenzo ran his route to the back left corner of the end zone, looked up, and saw the football coming toward him. He grasped it in both hands as the horn sounded – and was almost immediately surrounded by Morristown teammates.
Lorenzo shook his head as he looked around at the high metal walls of the New York Jets’ Florham Park training facility.
“It’s just crazy,” said Lorenzo, a senior wide receiver and cornerback for the Colonials. “It’s a professional field with professional players watching you. … It’s amazing just being here.”
Morristown and Delbarton were part of the Jets’ second annual seven-on-seven touch football tournament, the full-day, round-robin culmination of the NFL team’s internship program.
Organized by former NFL offensive lineman Dave Szott, the program was designed to give current players exposure to coaching – a field many have expressed interest in exploring after their NFL careers end. The biggest obstacle for Szott, the Jets’ director of player development and a Morristown resident, was how to meld the New Jersey high school football schedule – which does not have organized spring football, and doesn’t permit practice until after spring sports end — with that of the pro team. Each of the Jets players spent a few days with the high school squad since NJSIAA tournaments concluded June 6, and will be evaluated by his host coach.
“I think it’s awesome,” Morristown coach Chris Hull said. “The kids see they’re not just guys on TV, these behemoth guys. They see the big picture, those pros.”
The Jets’ rookie class served as officials on Friday, complete with the trademark black-and-white vertical-striped T-shirts and whistles. Johnathan Rumph, a wide receiver out of the University of Georgia, pointed at each spot on a clipboard to mark down touchdowns, defensive stops, and turnovers. Each TD is worth seven points. Holding an opponent to less than 20 yards on four downs is worth three points, as are interceptions and other takeaways.
“You don’t get opportunities like this every day,” Delbarton sophomore Kareem Brown said. “I didn’t even think this was a possibility. The fact that we’re here is still unreal. These are professional football players, and this is where they play. It’s a great feeling. I haven’t really grasped it yet.”
Morristown improved in the afternoon session after a shaky start. The Colonials defeated Shabazz White, 33-19 in the first round of the playoffs. Delbarton topped Summit, 37-14.
But both local teams stumbled in their semifinals. The Colonials fell to Barringer, 42-6. Shabazz Black defeated Delbarton, 33-26, on a late touchdown.
Barringer defended its title, defeating Shabazz 38-31 in an all-Newark championship game for the second year in a row.
“I’m trying to make adjustments and help them learn from mistakes,” said T.J. Barnes, a second-year nose tackle who worked with Morristown. “That’s the biggest thing to take from this camp, to learn from mistakes and act like a professional. … They’re really able to take to what I was teaching them, and apply it to their own skillset.”
Trevor Reilly, a second-year linebacker out of Utah, was stalking the Barringer sideline on Friday – and occasionally dashing onto the field to give last-minute tips. Reilly and Jets cornerback Dexter McDougle had visited the Newark school on Thursday, bringing pizza and Gatorade after a spirited practice.
The trip was eye-opening for Reilly, who had never really seriously considered coaching before the Jets’ internship program.
“Those guys are in the trenches,” said Reilly, 6-foot-5 with a bushy brown beard. “They love to get kids motivated to do the right thing on the field, which usually translates into doing the right thing off the field. … The biggest thing is to help the kids. Our strategy hasn’t been to go in and change the plays. We just want to develop individually, each kid, to be better.”