New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold traded in green for red, celebrating the holiday season with some lucky children in a New Jersey mall.
FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY—Sam Darnold is used to wearing red, having done so at USC for two seasons.
The beard, however, is a new experience.
With the help of Bleacher Report podcast Simms & Lefkoe, Darnold donned the suit of another red-clad legend, Santa Claus, and listened to the Christmas wishes of children gathered at the Livingston Mall in Livingston, NJ.
With the podcast’s hosts, Adam Lefkoe and former NFL quarterback Chris Simms, posing as Darnold’s “elves,” the incognito New York Jets quarterback can’t escape the competition. Two children in the video ask for the jersey of Saquon Barkley, while another child introduces himself as a fan of the Green Bay Packers, Darnold’s Sunday opponent (1:00 p.m. ET, Fox).
“Sam-ta” does eventually get to meet some kids wearing his jersey. He gently teases one child that he’ll be able to meet one of his favorite Jets “next year.” Another childbearing Darnold’s name gets to catch a pass from Santa, who is said to be an alum of “North Pole High School”.
Eventually, Santa gets all the children involved. Emulating a familiar sight over the past few weeks, Darnold finds a young fan dressed in a Robby Anderson jersey for a deep pass. Santa soon disappears, but his good friend Darnold emerges later on, much to the delight of the children. The appearance culminates in a group hug and photo with Darnold, who leads the children in the trademark “J-E-T-S” chant.
Since returning from a November foot injury, Darnold has produced some holiday magic. According to Pro Football Focus, Darnold’s “grade” of 88.3 over the past two games is second-best in the league, behind only Andrew Luck of Indianapolis.