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February 12, 2018

Kacy Rodgers II is off to the Big Apple

Liam Richards/Electric Umbrella

Kacy Rodgers II may be leaving the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but he’s staying in green and white.

The 25-year-old defensive back signed a free-agent contract Thursday with the NFL’s New York Jets, who sport the same colours as the CFL’s Roughriders.

“Green is my favourite colour,” Rodgers said with a chuckle from his off-season home in Dallas. “It just so happens that, since high school, I’ve never played with a team that didn’t have green as the main colour. I’m just continuing the tradition.”

Rodgers began his CFL career with the Chris Jones-coached Edmonton Eskimos in 2015, but spent that season on the practice roster. Jones moved to the Roughriders as their head coach and GM in December of 2015 and, in August of 2016, he signed Rodgers.

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Rodgers had been a safety during his days at the University of Miami, but he played cornerback for Saskatchewan. He appeared in 25 regular-season games over his two campaigns with the Roughriders, recording 74 tackles, two forced fumbles, one sack and one interception.

Rodgers was set to become a free agent this coming Tuesday, but the Roughriders released him last Saturday so that he could try to secure employment in the NFL. That turned out to be with the Jets.

“I had multiple workouts with different teams and the Jets, from the jump, just felt like home,” said Rodgers, who also had looks from the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals.

“I’ve been (to the Jets’ facilities) a few times, even when I was with Saskatchewan, to visit my dad. We went to a game this year after the season. I knew some of the guys and some of the people who work in the office and it has felt like home since I first visited.”

Rodgers’ dad, Kacy, has been the Jets’ defensive co-ordinator since 2015. As important as his presence was for his son, it wasn’t the main reason why the younger Rodgers chose New York.

“I’m sure it did play a part in the back of my head that my dad is up there, but I looked at all of my options, talked it over with my family and tried to pick the best place for me as a person and a player,” he said. “It just so happened the Jets came out on top in a lot of the areas I was looking at. As an added bonus, my dad is still coaching there.

“Coaches leave and they stay, so there’s no guarantee on how long we’ll be able to work together. For the time being, I want to take the opportunity (to do that) because it’s not something you see a lot, especially in our profession.”

Rodgers has been asked about his dad throughout his football career. The younger Rodgers is aware that people have perceptions about him because of his father, but the son has tried to be his own person.

Even so, some might believe that nepotism played a role in Rodgers getting his chance with the Jets. In his mind, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“This is my fourth year out of college and if (the family connection) was the case, I would have been playing for the (Miami) Dolphins coming out when my dad was there or I would have been with the Jets last year,” Rodgers said.

“That’s probably something he and I will have to deal with moving forward, with questions being asked, but that isn’t the case here. I’ve worked for this and I’ve been blessed with this opportunity. Nothing came easy, nothing was given to me and, going forward, that’ll still be the case.

“I’ve been his son for 25 years, so I know he’s a tough coach. He’s probably going to coach me the toughest, actually.”

Rodgers looks back fondly on his time in the CFL, suggesting the league “has done everything for me” over the past three years.

When he was on the Eskimos’ practice roster in 2015, he saw the effort that was required to win a Grey Cup. After signing with Saskatchewan, he recognized what was needed to win and then retain a starting spot.

As eager as he is to take what he learned in Canada to the NFL, he’s also going to miss the CFL — and Saskatchewan in particular.

“Anytime you make a home for two years and play in front of the best fan base in the world, leaving is definitely tough and it’s something I’ve thought about,” he said. “I’ve learned from this league, from this organization, and everything I’ve learned is going to propel me forward.

“At this point, it’s tough to leave the organization. We could have done a lot more (in 2017) even though we progressed, and that team is going to go far next year. Knowing I’m not going to be a part of that is difficult, but I can’t really turn my back on the opportunity that’s ahead of me right now.”