FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — It’s Father’s Day at the Jets’ training facility, where Kacy Rodgers is the New York Jets’ defensive coordinator.
But, everywhere else, he’s Dad to Kacy Rodgers II, a versatile defensive back competing to make the team.READ MORE: Thousands Show Up For Event Showcasing Gowanus Artists
The two are enjoying the unique chance to work together in the NFL as father-son and coach-player.
“It’s been great,” the younger Rodgers said with a smile after a recent minicamp practice. “This is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often and it’s extremely rare in our profession to have this situation. I’m just taking it all in and using this opportunity to my fullest and taking advantage of it.”
The 26-year-old Rodgers II has been doing exactly that over the last few years just to reach this point. He went undrafted after playing at the University of Miami from 2010-13. Rodgers II had visits with several NFL teams over the last few years and was in the Canadian Football League for three seasons, including the last two with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
He was signed by the Jets in February and has a chance to add depth to New York’s secondary, where he’s listed as a safety but can also play cornerback as well as contribute on special teams.
“From my standpoint, you have to be proud of him because you know everybody’s road is different to get here,” the elder Rodgers said. “He wasn’t a second-round draft choice and pushed in here. He had some of the rookie weekends that didn’t work out. Then he kept trying, kept trying. Then he went to the CFL route, then the CFL practice squad, then he made the CFL roster, became a starter and consequently drew some free agent attention and now is here.”
And, just because he has a special relationship with the man running the Jets’ defense doesn’t mean Rodgers II gets preferential treatment.
“I get on him no different than any other,” the elder Rodgers said. “He’s my son when we walk outside the building, but when he walks in the building, he’s No. 39. He’s got a job to do, no different than No. 33, No. 36.”
Well, except for the occasional but inevitable good-natured razzing on the field.
During a practice in organized team activities last month, Rodgers II intercepted a pass from rookie Sam Darnold and the defensive players went wild.
“He’s your daddy’s son!” several of them shouted at the Jets’ defensive coordinator, who couldn’t help but crack up.READ MORE: Gabby Petito Foundation Holds Fundraiser On Long Island
Coach Todd Bowles playfully retrieved the football and handed it to the proud father.
“Just looking at it from the outside in, I think it’s great,” Bowles said. “It’s great on one hand and when another coach is yelling at him, it’s probably not great that you’re sitting there inside stewing, but they have a great relationship. I’ve known them for quite a while, since he was probably 12 or 13. Just to see them two together again, as a father, I’m sure you have to be proud.
“I can’t imagine because it’s his son and himself, but I’m sure they have nice dinner conversations.”
Those moments have actually been few and far between over the years. While Rodgers II was growing up and becoming a standout football player on the AAU and high school fields of Southlake, Texas, his father was carving out a coaching career while spending months at a time away from home.
“He didn’t get to see me actually play a game until I got to college, and it just so happened that we shared the same stadium — him with the Dolphins and me with the Hurricanes,” Rodgers II said. “If we didn’t, I’m not sure when he would’ve gotten to see me play. Just going from that to seeing him every day and working with him every day, man, it’s something you really can’t describe.”
The elder Rodgers had several coaching stops in college before landing a job as Dallas’ defensive tackles coach in 2002. He took over as the Cowboys’ defensive line coach in 2005 and then served in the same role with Miami from 2008-14 before being hired by Bowles to join his staff as the defensive coordinator in 2015.
“By the time he was finished in high school, I was coaching down south, and then he would come to my games on the weekend and I was fortunate enough his coaches would email me his games so I got to see them,” Rodgers said. “I think I got to see him play one time in his high school career. And then in his Canadian Football League career, I got to see him one time in person. It was after our last minicamp practice last year, I flew to Vancouver to watch him play in their last preseason game.
“So it’s kind of surreal to see him every day in practice.”
And, with minicamp over and the Jets breaking for six weeks before the start of training camp, the two will celebrate Father’s Day in person Sunday instead of relying on long-distance phone calls.
“I think this is the first time I’ve seen my dad more than once or twice in a year just because of our schedules and jobs and things like that, so it’ll be special because of the fact we’ll be together,” Rodgers II said. “I really can’t tell you the last time it was, probably 10 years at least. It’s been a while. Conflicts in schedules, so we’re going to just take advantage and hang out and just enjoy it.”MORE NEWS: NYPD: Delivery Worker Stabbed To Death, E-Bike Stolen Near Sara D. Roosevelt Park
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)