For any sports organization, a Mount Rushmore is supposed to represent the very best of the team. For the New York Jets, there are very few who have made the impact of Ed Anzalone.
And while Anzalone did not join Joe Namath, Curtis Martin and Darrelle Revis up on the team’s Mount Rushmore, his impact on the Jets and their fanbase is undeniable.
Better known as ‘Fireman Ed,” Anzalone is a legend not just for this franchise but around the NFL. Wearing his No. 42 Bruce Harper jersey and FDNY fireman’s helmet, Anzalone leads the famous ‘J-E-T-S’ chant with gusto. And while he stepped away from the chant following threats made against him in the 2012 season, Anzalone never stopped going to games or cheering for the team.
The chant he leads every game is one of the few things that truly unites MetLife Stadium on gamedays. In the parking lot during tailgates, thousands of times fans will do their own chant, often mimicking Anzalone’s facial expressions and his hand gestures. It is inspiring to see the way he pumps up the crowd and gets things rolling. When the Jets are winning, the ‘J-E-T-S’ chant is something special. It can bring goosebumps.
It is something born of passion and love. There is no denying that Anzalone, camera focused on him and displayed on the jumbo screens inside the stadium, is locked-in. His arms stretched out, sometimes he raises a finger to his lips and quiet the crowd. Then he starts the chant, tens of thousands following him. Like a general before battle, he gets his troops ready. At that moment, Jets nation is lusting and wants more. Anzalone has his legions of fans ready to will their team on.
Himself a former fireman, Anzalone is not just the Jets ultimate fan but is active in the community. He attends fundraisers for the team, lending his persona as a celebrity and a highly recognizable face that is seen on television during games and even on commercials for ESPN. He also makes visits before games, stopping at tailgates to meet with children and especially those with special needs and long-term, chronic illnesses. He does those things away from the camera, but it is part of his character as a public servant to seek to bring help and joy, even if it is simply letting a sick child wear his helmet and do the chant with him from a parking lot tailgate.
The fact that a fourth player’s name will shortly be unveiled on Mount Rushmore is certainly no indictment on Anzalone. He is more than a fan of the Jets. In many ways, he is the very pulse of the fanbase. He leads the Jets chant but also has been a voice of patience and calm. While always noting that he hates losing, he advocated for the Jets to retain Adam Gase, saying the impact that firing the first-year head coach would have on a young quarterback in Sam Darnold would hurt his development.
Few have cast a greater shadow upon the Meadowlands over the years than Anzalone. He very easily could have been on Mount Rushmore alongside Namath, Martin and Revis.
He is a legend and a character. His impact is bested by very few if any around the organization.
Sadly, like Wayne Chrebet and Carl from 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' Anzalone did not make Mount Rushmore. That honor goes for a defensive player who will be announced in the coming days.