Bronx, NY—The final day of the Bronx Week festivities always includes a salute to Bronxites who have accomplished much in their chosen professions and have brought positive attention and respect to their birthplace. This year’s group of honorees follows in the respected footsteps of those recognized in past years.
Regardless of differences in age, ethnic background, neighborhood, gender or profession, there is always a respected group to be honored each year. The five whose names were placed atop street signs on the Grand Concourse in the 161st Street area on Sunday included four from the entertainment industry, Swizz Beatz (Kasseem Dean), Priscilla Lopez, Rachel Ticotin and David Zayas.
The youngest and only athlete of the inductees was Willie Colon III, a professional football player who is currently a member of the New York Jets.
Each of the inductees was accompanied on his/her big day by family and friends. Colon was no different than the others, his mom was standing next to him with others who are close to him nearby as his sign was unveiled. The count-down slogan for the unveiling was very familiar to fans of his current team, J_E_T_S, Jets, Jets, Jets.
Even though Colon holds a Super Bowl ring, he was astounded by this honor from his hometown, “It was amazing. I count my blessings every day.” His humility will not let the public acclaim go to his head as he feel the credit goes to others as much as to himself, “It’s for everybody who pushed me, especially my family.”
He accepts the honor as something that he hopes will encourage others in the future, “Hopefully, I’m a beacon of light.”
Colon was a participant in several sports when a student at Cardinal Hayes High School on the Grand Concourse, only a short walk from where his street name sign was placed. He did track for one year, basketball for three and football for four. In his senior year, he was named the MVP of the defensive squad of his team. He was also named the Most Valuable Player in the Catholic High School All-Star game.
Although recruited by colleges such as South Carolina, Massachusetts, Buffalo and St. John’s, he chose to attend Hofstra University.
He only played one game in his first season at Hofstra, but started 35 in his final three years at college. As a junior, he was named the team’s Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was recognized as a Div. I-AA All-American by several publications.
Colon’s hope of becoming a football pro came true as he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round, 131st overall selection, of the 2006 NFL Draft. An injury gave him the opportunity to start the finsl two games of the 2006 season.
Colon started all 16 games during the next three seasons. In the first of those three seasons, the Steelers won the Super Bowl. A pre-season torn Achilles tendon cost him the entire 2010 season. A torn triceps in the first game of 2011 forced him to miss the rest of that season.
He was released by the Steelers on March 13, 2013, but signed two days later to a one-year contract by the Jets.
He started all games for the Jets last year. A bicep injury hindered a long term contract, but he signed another one-year deal with the Jets two months ago. He said, “Being a Jet means a lot to me.” He is looking forward to a successful season for the Jets and for himself.
After the short ceremony concluded, the Bronx honorees rode to Mosholu Parkway to join the annual Bronx Week parade.