Photo Cred: Matt Becker / Green Bay Packers
By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
They talk a lot of football, always have. It’s just in a good, instructive way, not a, ‘my team is better than your team’ way.
Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers, Jr. and Carolina Panthers secondary coach Richard Rodgers have a unique father-son relationship. They have both reached the top level of their profession and are with two of the top teams in the NFL.
The two have met twice with the younger Rodgers’ Packers winning at Green Bay, 38-17, in 2014; and the father’s Panthers evening the score, with a 37-29 win, at Carolina in 2015.
There’s no bragging rights involved in this version of Family Feud, however.
“We don’t really talk about our competition per se,’’ the younger Rodgers said. “We do talk about football all the time, especially during the offseason. He’s always giving me pointers. He coaches the secondary, so he knows how teams try to cover me, so he helps me there. But we really don’t talk about our individual teams so much. There’s really none of that.’’
Instead, the elder Rodgers, who like his son played his college football at the University of California, Berkeley, and was part of the infamous Stanford/Cal Band Play (he had the next-to-last lateral), has helped his son dissect defenses.
Rodgers, Sr., after playing in the Arena League after Cal, began his college coaching career at San Jose State and moved on to Portland State, New Mexico State and Holy Cross before being hired by the Panthers in 2012. Rodgers, Jr. was selected by the Packers in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
“He’s been helping with coverages for as long as I can remember,’’ Rodgers, Jr. said. “I learned just sitting in his meetings when he was coaching in college and just listening to what he had to say. And continuing now, I talk to him when I have any questions about different coverages or questions about what different defenses do. It’s a great tool that not too many people have.’’
Despite being NFC rivals (at least they’re not division rivals), the two Rodgers will talk during the season as well, and again it’s never about competition. It’s about the coach helping the player.
“We’ll talk every couple of weeks, or so,’’ the tight end said. “He’ll give me pointers and tell me how I’m playing. It’s always been like that, high school, college, he would teach me bit by bit, things about coverages. It just helps that you have someone pressing you, but you know that they know what they’re talking about; a lot of kids want to play football but maybe their parents don’t really know about football. I knew I had my father who knew the game and was there for me to guide me through the process.’’
Rodgers, Jr. wasn’t forced, or even encouraged, to play football by his father. For that matter growing up he played more soccer, basketball and baseball. It wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school he put on the helmet and pads for real and he’s been in love ever since.
“Being around the game, my brother and I used to go to my dad’s practices, it was great when we were young. The equipment guys would give us pads and we would tackle each other on the sideline. My dad would have to keep an eye on to make sure we don’t get hurt. But it was always fun.
“I always loved football and then once I started playing it I loved it even more. I couldn’t get away from it.’’
He’s not going to get away from his father that easily, either. The Panthers host the Packers again this season in round three of Father vs. Son.
“It’s pretty cool,’’ Rodgers, Jr. said. “When we played the Panthers the first time, at Lambeau, it was kind of surreal. Meeting my dad on the field during pregame, nobody ever thought, or at least I never thought, we would be in that situation.
So, who does the family root for when the two meet?
“My grandmother roots for both of us,’’ the younger Rodgers said. “But I think the rest of the family roots for me.’’
Rodgers, Jr. said he never thought about it, but what if he would have been drafted by the Panthers, or his father was hired by the Packers?
“It would be kind of weird to be playing on your dad’s team, and you’re around your dad all the time as a professional,’’ he said. “It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but I don’t know how that situation would pan out.’’