A Jets Coach Has Always Supported his Son. But What About a Spot on the Team? - Freeverything.com

A Jets Coach Has Always Supported his Son. But What About a Spot on the Team?


FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — In many ways, Kacy Rodgers II is just like the dozens of other young N.F.L. players clinging to the margins of the game, trying to secure a spot on a 53-man roster for the start of the season.

What sets him apart is when he accidentally refers to the Jets’ defensive coordinator as “Pops.”

Kacy Rodgers, the elder, is in his fourth season as a coach with the Jets, but this training camp has been unusual. The last time such a paternal relationship existed on an N.F.L. sideline was from 1976 to 1978, when Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach John McKay coached his son J. K.

It is also the first time Rodgers has coached Kacy II, a safety who played four seasons at Miami before joining the Canadian Football League in 2015. There is some inherent awkwardness. Rodgers will be partly responsible for deciding which players will ultimately make up his defense. And Kacy II, who has never played a down in an N.F.L. game, has been battling a leg injury that kept him out of practice the past two weeks, although he was active for Friday’s preseason opener against Atlanta. A decision about whether to keep him on the team looms.

In the interim, father and son are trying to enjoy the extended time they have together. Kacy II frequently dines in his father’s office, while the coach occasionally pops over to his 26-year-old son’s apartment for a late-night snack.

“It’s been a blessing for us both,” Kacy II said. “I’m doing everything I can to make this moment last throughout the season.”

Kacy II said his father did not get him into the sport. In fact, according to his mother, Rodgers asked their son to wait until he turned 13, for fear of a serious head injury.

Like many coaches’ sons, Kacy II didn’t get to see his father as often as he wanted. For years, they lived in Southlake, Tex., while Rodgers coached for the Dallas Cowboys. But in 2008, he was hired by the Miami Dolphins. Kacy II was still in high school. He and his mother, Marcella, stayed put.

After Friday night football games, they would fly to Miami — or wherever the Dolphins happened to play — early Saturday to spend time with Rodgers, then fly back late Sunday or early Monday, in time for school.

“Nothing is difficult when it’s important,” Marcella said in a telephone interview. “Boys need their fathers.”

That was clear in 2015, after Kacy II graduated from Miami and went undrafted by the N.F.L. He attended a rookie minicamp with the Kansas City Chiefs but did not earn a contract. A tryout with the Edmonton Eskimos of the C.F.L. resulted in his getting cut there, too.

So he went back home to Texas and took a job as a sales associate at Nordstrom working out on the side. He paid $200 in fees to attend additional C.F.L. tryouts, hoping for a break. He also contemplated giving up football altogether.

But a two-week trip to New Jersey to spend time with his father, who had just completed his first minicamp with the Jets, helped clear his mind and reset his priorities. Rodgers didn’t pressure his son to keep playing — “If I wanted to be a gardener, he would have supported me,” Kacy II said — but he did offer some encouragement.

“He just tells me to keep going,” Kacy II said. “He tells me, ‘Why stop now?’ You’ve got this far, might as well keep going. You don’t owe this to anyone but yourself. You’re not doing this for me, or for your mom. You’re doing this for yourself to create your own legacy.”

The Jets declined to make the senior Rodgers available for an interview. Questions submitted to him through a team spokesman were not answered.

After the time in New Jersey with his father in 2015, Kacy II got work in the C.F.L., first with Edmonton, then the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Rodgers would receive Roughriders game footage, then call Kacy II with critiques, typically about technique and finishing plays.

“Obviously he knows what it takes to play at this level, he coaches the best of the best,” Kacy II said. “I’m asking him what I need to do to get in the mix.”

J.K. McKay, now 65, recalled struggling to figure out what to call his father in public — “no name sounded right” — and hearing the criticism of the coaching as the team struggled. Though some teammates felt he was only there because of his last name, he did not let it bother him.

McKay was a bit surprised that 40 years had passed before another father-son duo shared the same experience. But knowing the tension that existed then, he would not necessarily advise others to try.

“It’s almost an impossible situation,” said J.K. McKay, who is the head of football operations for the Alliance of American Football, an upstart league opening in 2019. “If he does make it, and you’re a guy who doesn’t make it, it’s hard to think that you’re not going to have a problem with the coach’s son being on the team.”

Kacy II said when he got the call from the Jets this winter asking him to come in for a workout, his father did not even know it was happening.

“I called him and said, ‘Hey, the Jets are bringing me in,’” Kacy II said. “He said, ‘Oh, really?’ He was able to watch me work out, which was cool.”

Jets Coach Todd Bowles, who coached with Rodgers in his time with the Cowboys, and has known Kacy II for more than a decade, said he had no concerns about Jets players making accusations of nepotism.

“When you have a son, and he ends up going in the N.F.L., there’s a chance he could be on your team,” Bowles said. “He earns his keep. Kacy is very fair, and Kacy II works hard.”

Kacy II said he had occasionally heard a comment such as “There goes daddy’s son” as he passed through the hallway. It was always made in jest, he said, and he has heard no grumbles from teammates.

Just like them, he is getting a shot to compete. It is all he is asking for.

“I used to be embarrassed of my story,” he said. “Embarrassed of having nowhere to go and not knowing what I was going to do. People would ask me, ‘Are you still playing football?’ And I’d have to tell them, I’m not right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

In the past, “Pops” was always a phone call away. For the time being, a knock on an office door will do.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page D3 of the New York edition with the headline: A Prospective Jet Has a History With the Defensive Coordinator. It’s His Father.. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe



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