Former New York Jets Defensive Lineman Joe Klecko
Father of Patriots Fourth-Round Pick Dan Klecko
Q: Do you wish you could go back and get drafted in the NFL like your son was?
JK: I'm just so happy for him it's unbelievable. We were just talking a couple of minutes ago and Danny has broken every record of mine in college. I was drafted in the sixth round and he's just been drafted in the fourth. He just keeps plummeting me into the depths here.
Q: Obviously you're going to be biased because it's your kid, but you're also a realist because you did play and play well in the league. So many of these scouting services think that your son is undersized for the position and maybe he doesn't have enough skill to become a really good NFL player. What's your take on it?
JK: Well, I just think the proof is in the pudding. Last time I looked, in college, Miami, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, all of them were rated in the top 20 and he was the defensive player of the year in that league. To all of their negativeness towards his height, that's all I really point to.
Q: How do you feel about rooting against the Jets twice a year?
JK: Well, that's going to be the tough part. For so many years, I've had so many tough times in New England. I broke my leg up there. There are so many things to think about, but honestly, my career is second nature now and it's been second nature for a long time since Danny has come along at Temple. His freshman year he was an All-American. It's so great as a father to see your kid do this. When it comes time for him to play, I'm sure the Jets will understand that blood is thicker than water here. He is my son.
Q: I was one of the people who was here many years ago when Don Hasselbeck helped that leg-break take place.
JK: Are you walking with a cane, too? [Laughter].
Q: No. A lot of people know of some of those things that used to happen with Don. Have you ever had a chance to talk with your son about some of the old rivalry things? Did you ever go over what it was like up here at Foxboro Stadium, now it's gone obviously, but with that whole thing between the Jets and Patriots over the years?
JK: Yes, I have in the past. It's funny, Danny was in a game with me one day when Brian Holloway was in the tunnel at one of the Jet games when they were playing New England at Giants Stadium and Brian was missing a pinky finger. I'm sure you guys know that. He was talking to my son Danny and he said, 'If it wasn't for your father, I'd still have this.' We would basically want to reminisce about things and we were talking about Steve Grogan, who was one of the toughest competitors I have ever faced. He was the toughest man alive in my book, the way he went through the beatings that he took sometimes, but he still turned around and beat us many a time. I related that to Danny. He's heard it from me before, without a doubt.
Q: Obviously when he was born you didn't think that your son would be an NFL player, but at what stage in his development did it dawn on you that he might have a professional career?
JK: Well, I knew, and you may laugh, but I never looked at him that way until his senior year. When he played in college, I always told him, 'Danny, there's nothing as fleeting as yesterday's hero.' That's an old cliché, but it's very true. I said, 'If you ever want to make anything in football, you really have to work hard.' Danny has done that. I really looked at his college career in phases. I looked at it as he went along and I've never really given any credence to him going to the next level until his senior year when people started talking about him outside of Temple University. As a high school freshman, Danny was the MVP of his high school football team. In his senior year in high school, he was MVP of two all-star games. Even at that point, he was a star when he played, but I never related it to the big time. I'm very much a person with my feet on the ground, a realist. I would have never wanted to have gotten that into his head and then maybe have a dream crushed. So, I really didn't put any emphasis on him going to the next level until his senior year in college.
Q: Dan seemed to handle it pretty well this weekend. He said that next year he relaxed and watched a movie. Was this weekend tough for you, Joe?
JK: No! As a matter of fact, all day yesterday, I hung a door, I put a new front door in and put all new Victorian moldings around it and I got done at 10:00 at night. So, that's what I did for the whole day yesterday. We were actually going to go play golf, but it poured rain so we couldn't go. But, I told him, 'Whoever drafts you, you have no power over.' I just told him that I didn't want to see him around here getting agida and eating a bottle of Tums or something with anxiety. So, he was very relaxed about it. This morning, we went to church and he wanted to be home at 11:00 because he was very excited about the day, because it was a question mark if he would go on the first day. He wasn't really expecting it, but today he was expecting something. He was very, very happy when it happened. When he was drafted and Mr. Kraft got off the phone with him, he was ear to ear. He was the most excited kid I've ever seen in my life.
Q: Joe, I saw that you live in Colt's Neck, New Jersey. I assume that's a fairly affluent, comfortable community. I'm just curious if you had any fears or worries at all about raising your kid in an environment that maybe he wouldn't have as tough of an upbringing as you did.
JK: Are you ready? I'll give it to you. You've never lived in my house if you don't think it's tough. I know Danny has had a much easier life than I have. Of course, every parent wants better for their children. But, as far as his work ethic and the things that happen to him on the football field, Danny walked around with a little bit of a bullseye on his back on the football field because of who he was. Guys would come after him and he'd always get the smart remarks from the young guys out there playing. He handled it well. How he handled it well was basically … He lives under the premise that if he can't be better than somebody, he has to outwork them. Danny's done that. Danny's a really dedicated type of kid for football. When it comes to those hard knocks that maybe I had, he didn't grow up with. He grew up with that slang on the football field and he handled it like a pro. He handled it as good as I could see anybody handle it. I remember this, this is a good one. A kid came up to him one day and he was playing on his high school team and Danny was just having an awesome day and one kid came up to him and said, 'Klecko, you're not so tough and your old man sucked, too.' Danny turned to him and said, 'There he is, why don't you go tell him?'
Q: Did he?
JK: No, God, the kid ran away with his tail between his legs. But, he's had this whole monkey on his back being Joe Klecko's son. It hasn't affected him. I love him to death and his mother loves him to death. He's got a great family life here and he knows that. In that sense, I've always said to him, 'Danny, whatever you do, I don't care what it is, because you're number one in our hearts.' From that standpoint, that's kind of the way he lives his life. But, from the football standpoint, he goes out there and makes his presence known. When he gets the negative publicity or attitude on the field, he handles it as good as anybody I've ever seen.
Q: Joe, what do you do now for a living?
JK: I am the vice president of a company called Your Coats, it's a roof coating company and a waterproof company.
Q: Are you between pictures?
JK: I wish I was. My thespian days are over, I think.
Q: How active are you with the Jets right now, and does that stop now that your son's a professional player?
JK: Oh, I don't think so. You guys are football people. When you mention my name, I'm sure you don't think about 'Smokey and the Bandit.' I do things for them now. The Jets have really turned around to be somewhat of a marketing company with the new management. We do a good bit of things. But no, that won't change anything. Absolutely not.
Q: I thought I saw you with Fireman Ed on your shoulders for one game.
JK: Yeah, I did. I went down and picked him up and he thought it was his brother. I didn't know that son of a gun weighed so much. [Laughter].
Q: Joe, how many other children do you have?
JK: I have five children. My oldest son is Michael, who is 27. We have three children who we call our second generation, we have a nine [year-old] and eight [year-old] and a six [year-old]. There's 21 years difference between my oldest and my youngest.