Entering his sixth NFL season, Jets TE Tyler Conklin's football career is coming full circle.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old grew up a Packers fan in Michigan and was drafted by their NFC North rival Vikings. Now teammates with the quarterback he grew up watching and spent his first four professional seasons crossing his fingers wouldn't pull a rabbit out of his hat, Conklin is slowly getting used to calling Aaron Rodgers his quarterback.
"Yeah, it's weird," he said. "Not all people know I grew up a Green Bay fan, which is weird. And then playing against them for four years, you're just always stressed out no matter what the lead was. He just always had the ability to make everything look so easy. Then seeing them here in person, I've never really seen anything like it even if he's messing around throwing the ball. I don't think I've been around a competitor that competes as hard as him and loves it as much as he loves it. I think that's going to be contagious to this team, and I'm excited about that."
Conklin did not participate in most of the offseason program because of an injur,y but was in attendance at 1 Jets Drive. He hasn't lined up in new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's offense yet, but he's excited about the tight ends' role in the scheme.
"What's not to love about it?" he said. "If you just watch a couple OTAs, the way we're involved in the pass game, to outside zone scheme, and the advantages it gives us whether we're in pass protection or run game are awesome. I'm just excited to play in it."
See the top images of the Jets during the 2023 offseason program.
In his first year with the Green & White, Conklin became the first Jets tight end since Dustin Keller in 2010 and 2011 with at least 550 receiving yards. Conklin had 58 receptions, 552 yards and 3 touchdowns with four quarterbacks under center. Jets TE coach Ron Middleton believes Conklin and Rodgers will seamlessly translate their friendship to the field.
"What he [Conklin] brings to the table is something Nathaniel will use, and Aaron Rodgers is going to love the guy," Middleton said. "He's an explosive route runner, in his world, the 10-to-12-yard range, he's got some explosiveness. We can really take advantage of underneath coverage, he has enough speed to stretch the field and has a knack for getting in seams. I know Aaron Rodgers likes the deep ball, and he's [Conklin] a viable asset."
The Jets have a talented tight ends room from top to bottom with players like Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, Jeremy Ruckert and rookie Zack Kuntz.
"Our room always has really high expectations," Conklin said. "We all have high expectations for each other, we all hold each other accountable, but we have a lot of fun doing it. Coach Mid is an amazing coach. He keeps us on our P's and Q's, Ruck had awesome spring, C.J. had awesome spring and the rookies are doing their thing.
Conklin added: "I'm not going to sit here and break down position by position, but it's hard to say that I've played on a more-talented team in this. You look at it on paper and there's just not a hole defensively offensively. The talent is off the charts. Now we just have to put it together."