FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — In a recent meeting with his players, New York Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers called for introductions. He went around the room, asking each player to identify himself.
Welcome to springtime in the NFL, where 90-man rosters and heavy turnover practically mandate a getting-to-know-you session.
On this day, the room enjoyed a light moment when a certain 6-foot-2, 220-pound defensive back with a familiar-sounding name introduced himself to the group as Kacy Rodgers II.
“We got a bunch of laughs in the defensive room, a little bit of an uproar,” Rodgers II said, smiling.
A cool father-son story resonates in any room.
On Feb. 8, Rodgers — four years removed from his playing career at the University of Miami — signed a free-agent contract with the Jets, creating a family reunion at One Jets Drive. The 26-year-old spent the past three seasons in the CFL, the past two with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders. When his father’s team offered a contract, he jumped at the opportunity.
“It’s rare in our profession that you see family members on the same team, let alone father-son, let alone on the same side of the ball,” the younger Kacy said at the recent Jets rookie minicamp. “It’s been a great experience so far. I’m loving it.”
A similar situation occurred in 2012, when D’Anton Lynn signed with the Jets as a rookie free agent and spent one training camp with the team. His father, current Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, was the running backs coach on Rex Ryan’s staff at the time. Because D’Anton played defense, there wasn’t much day-to-day interaction with his dad during camp.
That won’t be the case with Kacy and Kacy, who have been working closely for the first five weeks of the offseason program.
“He’s been a tough coach, but a fair coach at the same time,” Kacy II said. “Obviously, when we’re in here, it’s strictly business. When we’re outside of here, he’s always going to be my dad. If anything, I’ll probably be coached that much harder. I think he expects a lot from me — but that’s nothing I’m not used to.”
Father-son situations are highly unusual in the NFL. The last head coach to coach his son was John McKay of the 1978 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau research. His son, John Jr., was a wide receiver on the team. While Elias doesn’t track coordinators historically, the McKay factoid illustrates the rarity of a father-son tandem on the same team.
Even though Kacy II, 26, is one of the most versatile defensive backs on the roster — he can play safety and cornerback — he knows there won’t be any favoritism when it comes to cutting down the roster.
“It’s a production business, so it wouldn’t matter if my dad were the head coach and my name was Kacy Bowles or if my dad owned the team and my last name was Johnson,” he said. “None of that matters. It’s a production business. I’ve known that my whole life. I’ve been a coach’s kid for 26 years now, so I know how it goes. I’m just excited for the process.”
Jets head coach Todd Bowles has known Kacy Rodgers II for 12 years. Bowles met him when he coached with Kacy Rodgers on the Dallas Cowboys’ staff from 2005 to 2007. At the time, Kacy II was only 14, on his way to becoming a highly recruited player out of Carroll High School in Southlake, Texas. Bowles became close friends with the elder Kacy, allowing him to watch Kacy II grow up.
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“I look at Kacy’s face sometimes, and I look at him every time his son makes a play [in practice] or gets out there, and I can see it in a father-son situation,” Bowles said. “I think that’s a great thing for him. Just to be in the same camp with your dad is probably pretty cool.”
It hasn’t been an easy road for Kacy II, who went undrafted out of Miami. There was an unsuccessful tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs, followed by a year on the Edmonton Eskimos’ practice squad, followed by two years in Saskatchewan. The Jets called this past December and brought him in for the a workout. Naturally, the proud dad couldn’t help but watch as his son performed for the personnel department.
“From where he came from, that was very thrilling for me to just watch because, from my standpoint, he’s a self-made man,” Kacy Rodgers said at the time.
Kacy II worked out for a handful of other teams, including the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots, but the decision was a no-brainer. He wanted his dad’s team to be his team.
“It’s been a long journey to get here to this moment — a lot of years and a lot of work — but it’s a blessing to play for my dad with this Jets organization,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”