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STS*: Capt. Kotwica’s Contribution to Teams

Posted by Nick Gallo on November 20, 2010 – 12:54 pm

Jets assistant special teams coach Ben Kotwica and his squad’s “battle rhythm” is not readily apparent to the dozens of media members along the sideline during practices and in the pressbox at games. To the members of five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces who attended the Jets’ practice on Friday, it may have been more noticeable.

“I think the background that I have not only going to West Point and being an officer for eight years has provided huge dividends,” said Kotwica, the fourth-year Jets coach, a U.S. Army veteran and a standout linebacker for the Black Knights, “not only in organization and leadership and communicating skills, but being able to multitask and get a couple of things done at once. That’s something that we had to do on a daily basis in the military and some of those skills are transferrable to what we do not only during practice but on gameday as well.”

When at Army, Kotwica played under current Jets linebackers coach Bob Sutton, and since that time the two have shared a special bond that is part coach, friend and mentor. Since joining the Jets, Kotwica, who toured in South Korea, Bosnia and Iraq, has worked under legendary coordinator Mike Westhoff.

The Green & White celebrate their 11th annual Military Appreciation Day when they play the Texans on Sunday, but last week, prior to Veterans Day, Westhoff and crew made sure to honor Kotwica with a special “Captain’s Chair” during a practice session.

“I have the utmost respect for Ben,” Westhoff said. “Coming out of West Point and serving in the military … I couldn’t be happier for us to give him some type of tribute. Everybody cracked up and it was great. I have the utmost respect for what Ben did.”

The chair was labeled “Captain Kotwica” and punter Steve Weatherford even asked if he could get his decorated assistant coach a cup of coffee during a break in practice. The man who was promoted after only two seasons as a defensive quality control coach is mostly in charge on working with Weatherford, kicker Nick Folk and long snapper Tanner Purdum, not only on gameday but even this past week when he took them to New Meadowlands Stadium after practice to gauge conditions inside the stadium.

“He’s a great mediator between us and Coach Westhoff,” Purdum said. “He does a lot of work with us. The first thing he asks us is our opinion and what we think since we’re the ones doing it. That’s something I really like in a coach and really respect.”

The idea that the former defensive coordinator at USMA Prep is a mediator is pervasive throughout the locker room, confirmed by safeties James Ihedigbo and Eric Smith, who double as special teams aces. From taking players aside when they come off the field to making in-game corrections to developing that aforementioned “battle rhythm” with the kickers starting in pregame, Kotwica’s experience in the military has helped him become a better coach and a balance for the fiery Westhoff.

“I think there is a close correlation between being in the military and doing what we do now on a weekly basis,” Kotwica said. “What we do now isn’t life and death, but I do believe that there is something to be said about getting a group of guys together, focused on a common goal and executing a mission. That’s what happens in the military and that’s what happens here.”

In speaking with the former Apache attack helicopter pilot, you can feel the sincerity and seriousness with which he takes not only his job but his relationship with his players. The Chicago native has earned the respect and the trust of those around him, particularly among other dedicated and selfless “soldiers” within the Jets locker room.

“I think it’s the way he carries himself and conducts himself,” Smith said. “He’ll joke around but usually he’s pretty serious and on top of things. You know when he’s telling you something, it’s going to be right.”

Maybe that’s why Kotwica naturally gravitated to special teams — it’s a branch of the Jets “army” that puts all ego aside and sacrifices personal gain not only for the team but for one another.

Kotwica said his military service was “extremely rewarding,” not just because of the tasks he carried out and the places he went but mostly because of the people he served alongside. It’s a sentiment he hopes continues to flourish in Florham Park.

“The stronger that you can develop that bond amongst your team or your unit in the military, the more success you’re going to have,” Kotwica said. “If you can get a group of guys to be fighting for someone instead of something, you can accomplish tremendous things. I was fortunate enough to be a part of a military group that did that in Iraq, and I think there are clear markings of that happening here this year.”

*Special Teams Saturday

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Posted in Nick Gallo | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “STS*: Capt. Kotwica’s Contribution to Teams”

  1. By IRA on Nov 20, 2010 | Reply

    Thanks coach for protecting this country and making our lives safe. Oh and BTW you do a great job with the ST’s.

  2. By Freddie on Nov 20, 2010 | Reply

    Hi Nick,
    I am the dad of a military son and really admire the contributions of Ben. Any chance we can tag the different units of the Jets with names comparable to military planes, examples = QB = General,, O/D-lines = B52 Bombers, Tight-ends / Receivers = F15’s, Running backs = C17’s, Linebackers = Apaches, DB’s + F22’s
    and Special Teams = F16’s.
    Just a thought since JETS is synonymous with planes and air power is such an integral part of our national defense infrastructure. Would be an awesome way to have our military identify with our team. Just a thought and if acceptable please pass this along to Woody, Tannenbaum & Rex etc. Thanks.
    I thought about for a long time & finally spoke to my son & some of his military friends & they love it

  3. By matt on Nov 20, 2010 | Reply

    Sorry, but I really don’t like that idea. Football has zero to do with war. And war is not a game. People die.

  4. By dougmc on Nov 21, 2010 | Reply

    Sorry matt, but football has always had corelations with war. No one is a fan of war and people dying, but these are only euphemisms. “Lost the Battle but won the War”, “Blitz”, “Flanker”, “In the Trenches” , etc.etc.etc. Games like “Stratego” and the like are very similar in plotting how to beat your opponent. The “Art of War” is a blueprint on how to deal with your enemy on many levels (business,football,life).Anyway, thanks Coach and all the young men in “Green” and all the colors of the armed forces.
    Need a strong outing by the Offense today and light up the scoreboard. Defense has their work cut out with Houston’s “O”.

  5. By Tom Spicer on Nov 21, 2010 | Reply

    I looked this up so these are the numbers the 1st 3 games last year we had Cotchery & Stuckey as our 2 staring WR’S. Than we traded for Braylon at the same time Cotchery got hurt & missed the next 3 games. So for games 4 thru 6 we had Braylon & Smith as our 2 starting WR’S. So for 6 games or around 40% of last year he did not have 2 legit guys at the WR spots. Last year he had 2,444 passing yards 15 total TD’S 12 passing & 3 rushing 23 total turnovers 20 picks & 3 fumbles lost. This year he is on a pace to have 1,095 more passing yards, 9 more TD’S & 12 less turnovers. Or for the season 3,539 passing yards, 24 TD’S & 11 turnovers. These numbers are a significant improvement over last year & hopefully next year he has 4,000 yards 30 TD’S &

  6. By Tom Spicer on Nov 21, 2010 | Reply

    10 turnovers. Also not having Holmes for the 1st 4 games this year has hurt his stats I think only the last 2 weeks have we seen the benefits of having a Holmes on our team even thou he played games 5 thru 7 only games they were slowing working him in games 8 & 9 you have seen what Holmes can be. If the Jets can resign Holmes & Braylon & have them both for the full year I think the sky is the limit for him. I read in todays post over the last 3 weeks Mark leads the league with 891 passing yards. The potential is there!

  7. By matt on Nov 22, 2010 | Reply

    Sorry Doug, but those references were instituted at times when we fought noble wars against real enemies whose aims were world dominance. It has been more than half a century since that was the case.

    Now our soldiers are viewed by their employers as pawns for financial gain with no regard for their safety or their welfare when/if they return.

    I’ve lost two close cousins in useless wars for oil and loot. Perhaps if the country was permitted to see these young men coming home in body bags after giving their lives, people would take a stand against unnecessary war.

    There is no glorification of war needed-just the opposite. Maybe each citizen should have to spend time in VA hospitals watching brave young men and women rubbing limbs that

  8. By matt on Nov 22, 2010 | Reply


    are no longer there and will never be there to understand the cost and permanence of unprovoked war.

    Politicians getting richer while spewing bile about who is or is not a “patriot” to fashion war chests is as immoral as it gets. If they really loved our veterans, war would be the very last resort, not the first.

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