Diane Anziano has been coming to Jets training camp at Hofstra for 42 years. Granted, the 2010 edition was a one day affair - dubbed "Family Fun Day" - but it still brings back memories of when she was 12 years old and still a student at St. Ladislaus parochial school in Hempstead, just down the road from the Hofstra campus.
"My best friend and I literally used to come here all day every day," she said, recalling the summer of 1968, where the players would come and eat lunch with them in between two-a-days and teach the two girls about football. "They were so excited to talk about football, and they weren't movie stars back then, they were just guys that played football for a living."
Flipping through her school autograph book, the signatures of the Super Bowl III champions are interlaced among those of her classmates. She describes Joe Namath's as her "killer," as it is the very first one in the book and the only one personalized, despite the Hall of Famer spelling her first name with a double-n.
"When I handed him this book to autograph, he must have gone 'Oh, my God'," Anziano said, recalling that Namath - a fellow Catholic - worshipped at a St. Ladislaus church in Pennsylvania.
Back then some of the Mets players used to show up at training camp as well. Anziano showed off signatures from Jerry Grote and Jerry Koosman, "but I wouldn't put them in my book," she said, instead having them on loose pages tucked inside.
Even more impressive is the small square book of photographs taken in 1972 of the players outside their Hofstra dorms. Taking her old Kodak along with her, "I would just wait after camp, after practice was over and take their picture, and they were more than happy to come," Anziano said.
The names she rattles off as she flips through the pictures reads like a who's who of Jets stars: "Joe Namath, Don Maynard, Gerry Philbin, Al Atkinson, Buddy Ryan..." A family friend who was working on the Shuart Stadium field Wednesday got the pictures to head coach Rex Ryan, who according to Anziano was a bit amazed that a fan had such an old photo of his dad at the campus.
Now a resident of Hicksville, Anziano and her daughter made the trek back to see her favorite team play, thankful the Jets still retain a slice of their Long Island roots after uprooting last year to train at SUNY Cortland.
Anziano hates that the team is now more connected to New Jersey than New York. "I was really afraid that they weren't going to come back this year," she said. "Most Jets fans from back in the day were from Long Island. Period."
As camp wound down, fans began the familiar "J! E! T! S!" chant, knowing they'd be losing Gang Green for at least another 364 days, until the next one-day event.
"It's better than nothing," Anziano said.