NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Jets wide receiver David Nelson said Sunday that despite critics saying stats don’t make Geno Smith look like the franchise quarterback, Smith’s worth ethic has earned him the team’s support.

Speaking with Steve Overmyer on TV 10/55 Sunday night, Nelson said Smith has been showing dedication since the end of last season.

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“I saw a guy take the curve at the end of the season last year, as far as three of the last four games, I mean – he played like a top 10 quarterback,” Nelson said. “And just taking that transition and using that momentum in that he built for himself last year – that platform that he built for himself last year, I see a guy that’s hungry. I see a guy that’s eager to prove he belongs in his spot, and he’s got the support of the team,” Nelson said.

Nelson said Smith has been calling people in to practice with him at his high school facility in Miami, and in the past two to three weeks Smith has been calling Nelson himself and others to practice passing back in New Jersey.

As to whether the lead quarterback choice will be Smith or Michael Vick, Nelson said it will likely all come down to the preseason.

“If (Smith) can come out there and have some consistent preseason games, and he can do it in a game setting, I think the job is his,” Nelson said.

Smith has been under a lot of criticism since the second the Jets drafted him in the second round last year. He endured a rocky rookie season that saw him throw for more than 3,000 yards, but complete just 55.8 percent of his passes while tossing just 12 touchdowns to 21 interceptions.

Though the Jets were pleased with Smith’s progress last season they didn’t take any chances once free agency opened, signing 11-year veteran Vick. And while many viewed the move as the Jets putting Smith’s feet to the fire, it appears they actually have wanted him to start all along and Vick is here more to mentor and step in should Smith prove to be unworthy of the job.

Nelson also talked Sunday about his efforts to help children and families in Haiti. He said his efforts there all started about 2 1/2 years ago when he went to Haiti to visit about a year after the devastating 2010 earthquake.

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He said while on the trip, he saw a little 4-year-old boy whose shirt had been caught in some loose rebar. The boy clearly had not eaten in a few days and looked weak, Nelson said.

Nelson freed the boy from the rebar, and first asked him if he wanted some food. The boy said no. Nelson then asked the boy if he wanted to play some games or blow bubbles, and the boy again said no.

“And he looked at me and he put both hands in the air and he said, ‘Just hold me.’ And it completely rocked me, because here was this boy who didn’t know where he was going to eat that night, didn’t know where he was going to sleep, didn’t know where his family was,” Nelson said. “But his greatest need was to have somebody hold him. His greatest need was to have somebody tell him he was worth it and spend 10 minutes just to say, ‘You are worth it and you’re beautiful.”

Since then, Nelson and his brothers have made their mission official, establishing the nonprofit I’mME on Jan. 5, 2013. They have worked to help with orphanages, create jobs, and even build a sports complex.

Nelson noted that Haiti has over 500,000 orphans among a population of 9 million, and over 80 percent have a parent alive somewhere, but some parents cannot afford to take care of their children or do not know how. He said his foundation has created a setup where mothers and fathers can more easily keep their children.

Nelson, Smith and other members of the Jets team were set to host an official launch party for I’mME at the Hotel Chantelle Rooftop, at 92 Ludlow St. on the Lower East Side, at 7 p.m. Monday.

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