New York native Matt Higgins, the Jets' executive vice president of business operations and right-hand man to owner Woody Johnson, announced Tuesday that he's leaving the Jets after eight years.
Higgins, 37, told the team's web site that he's planning to pursue other business opportunities. He wasn't involved in the football operation, but he played an instrumental role in the building of MetLife Stadium and the Jets' practice facility in Florham Park, N.J. Higgins also was a closer adviser to Johnson; he attended owners' meetings with Johnson, frequently traveled with him to away games and probably spent more time with him than any member of the hierarchy.
In an e-mail to everyone in the organization, Johnson said Huggins will "pursue new entrepreneurial opportunities that have piqued his interest. Matt told me late last year that this would be his final season with the team and we have been working closely together to plan his transition since that time."
Johnson also said "the business side has made tremendous strides under Matt’s leadership, helping the team earn a reputation as one of the most innovative in all of professional sports."
Higgins, reflecting on his eight-year run with the Jets, said: "In many ways, we've transformed the franchise. We built a state-of-the-art stadium and an amazing practice facility, and we've created a culture of deep fan engagement and transparency, a culture of innovation."
Before the Jets, Higgins was the youngest press secretary for the New York City mayor's office -- age 26. In fact, he worked the job for Mayor Rudy Giuliani before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Higgins also became an inspirational figure, overcoming testicular cancer and running in two marathons.
Looking back, Higgins recalled one of his favorite memories, telling NewYorkJets.com:
"I'm fortunate to wear many hats at the Jets. Those two hats became one a year ago. We went to Indianapolis and beat the Colts in the playoffs — a great game. We came back home, got on a plane and flew across to Israel, where we spent the better part of that week with Mitt Romney. I remember sitting alongside the Dead Sea with Woody, tweeting about the Jets. Then we came back home, got on a plane for the short flight to Providence, went to Gillette Stadium and beat the Patriots.
"I can't imagine a more amazing week that embodied the best of my job here with the team."
Higgins will be replaced on an interim basis by Bob Parente, the team's senior vice president of programming and media production. Parente has been with the Jets for more than 30 years.