If you happened to be at the Jump On In bounce house in Boonton, N.J. today, you saw quite a spectacle: a 6-4, 266-pound NFL running back flailing about on inflatable castles and slides like a first grader hopped up on Sweet-Tarts.
That running back was the 49ers' Brandon Jacobs, who took six-year-old Joseph Armento and his four-year-old brother for an outing they are not soon to forget. Armento, you'll recall, is the New Jersey boy who upon being told the Giants could no longer afford to keep Jacobs, emptied his piggy bank -- $3.36 - and sent it to California in an effort keep his favorite player with the Giants.
Jacobs was touched by the gesture and told Armento's mother, Julie, that he would be in New Jersey for a short time this week while he packed up his belongings and moved his family to the Bay Area. He thought his original idea for a meeting place, Chuck E. Cheese, might cause too much of scene. So they settled on a bounce house.
Jacobs, 29, brought his five-year-old son, Brayden, and the four kids - Jacobs included - played non-stop for nearly two hours. No one even took a water break.
"He told me he really wanted to get out there with the kids," Julie Armento said in a phone interview with The Bee. "He really wanted to enjoy it, and he did. It was amazing."
Said Jacobs, also by phone: "It was just us in the whole place and we were just going room to room - just bouncing and flipping all over the place, hitting each other with balls, sweating, our shirts filthy. We were just dirty, stinky boys, you know?"
Young Joseph, as you might expect, was blown away. Jacobs also gave him a signed football helmet. It's a Giants helmet, and Jacobs signed it with his former number, No. 27. He wears No. 45 with the 49ers. It reads: To Joe: Thanks for being a fan. God bless, Brandon Jacobs.
Julie Armento said she sent the letter in March soon after the 49ers had inked Jacobs to a one-year contract. But she sent it to Candlestick Park in San Francisco whereas Jacobs and the 49ers practice in Santa Clara, 45 miles to the south. Jacobs didn't get the letter until earlier this month. He called the Armentos the next day.
"When we first spoke, he said that he was genuinely touched by the letter, that it almost brought him to tears," Julie said. "He said it came at just the right time for him."
Said Jacobs: "I'm at a point in my career when people have stopped believing in me and not believing that I can still play. But that's not the case. Joe believes in me, gave me a lot of confidence and a lot of want-to. And I'm ready to go. I can't wait until the season starts."
Jacobs had one final gift -- a five-dollar bill. After all, he ended up signing with the 49ers, so it was only fair that the boy get his piggybank money back.
"He had some interest in there just for being a good kid," Jacobs said. "He's worth a lot more than that $5 bill I gave him."
-- Matt Barrows