Jets’ Muhammad Wilkerson just had a very charitable weekend in Linden

BY: Dom Cosentino,

LINDEN — Muhammad Wilkerson might beplaying it coy about whether he’ll be at theJets’ mandatory minicamp this week, but he was busy giving back with charitable efforts in his hometown this weekend.

“It means a lot,” Wilkerson, the Jets’ defensive end whose desire for a new contract has been the dominant story of the team’s offseason workout program so far, said Saturday.

“When I grew up, I never got a chance to go to any type of camps, and I never went to any type of community event where a professional athlete was hosting it and doing something for the community.”

Wilkerson hosted a pair of events here: On Friday, his T.E.A.M. 96 Foundation held a “Strikes for Scholarships” fundraiser at Jersey Lanes and distributed more than $15,000 in scholarships to seniors from five high schools in Union County.

On Saturday, Wilkerson hosted a free football camp for youths ages 13-17 at his alma mater, Linden High School. This is the second straight year Wilkerson has done the T.E.A.M. 96 bowling fundraiser and football camp, and the events are growing. Last year, Wilkerson said about 100 children took part in the football camp. This year, a total of 210 had registered.

“For me to be in the position I’m in now, coming from my mom and how she raised me and taught me how to be humble, it’s only right that I give back to the community,” Wilkerson said.

At his camp, Wilkerson politely declined to discuss his contract situation or whether he had made up his mind about attending minicamp, saying he had already done so Friday night. There had been a report that he would attend minicamp, which is mandatory, though Wilkerson and his agent have since gone on the record to say a decision hadn’t been made.

Wilkerson is entering the final year of his rookie contract, but he wants a long-term deal. Several defensive ends also taken in the 2011 first round have already gotten lucrative extensions from other teams.

Several Jets players—defensive ends Sheldon Richardson and Leger Douzable, linebackers David Harris and Demario Davis, and safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, plus Andrew Furney and Jacob Schum, who are trying out for spots at kicker and punter, respectively—assisted Wilkerson at his fundraiser and camp over the weekend.

“It was great to have my teammates come out and support me,” Wilkerson said. “And vice-versa. When guys on the team are having different events in the community, I’m always supporting them.”

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