Ten men named Rocky have played in the NFL. Only one for the Jets – Rocky Klever.
Drafted in 1982 from the University of Montana, Klever, a running back, was able to learn about life in the NFL during a 2,379-mile drive from the campus in Missoula to New York with Guy Bingham, the third-year Jets center, and Klever's former college roommate.
"I was very excited. Guy had already been there two years, so I was following the Jets by then," Klever said. "We drove out together to training camp. We stopped at friend's houses, had a great time, and we never listened to the same cassette tape twice. He gave me the lowdown on everything to do on the way out there."
What Bingham didn't know was that once they got to camp, Klever would be moved to a new position.
"In college, I started off as a quarterback and then moved to tailback and was in the I-formation mostly. They just pitched me the ball and I ran. I never really had to block very much," Klever said. "But when I got to the Jets, they wanted to make me a fullback because they had Freeman McNeil and Scott Dierking and Johnny Hector. All good running backs, I never would have made it."
Spending his rookie season on Injured Reserve because of a broken bone in his hand gave Klever an opportunity to learn the new position.
"If I was going to stick with it, I needed more experience," Klever said. "Plus, we had Dwayne Crutchfield (a fullback who was taken in the third round of the Draft). He was going to make it regardless. So, it was good. I got to practice every day and got to be friends with all the guys."
It turned out that learning to play fullback while on I.R. would lead to Klever playing yet another new position by the time he was on the active roster in 1983.
"Me and John Nitti were the running backs on the scout team, and the third-string tight end didn't play special teams and was always kind of banged up. So, there were times when I would play scout team tight end and I kind of started to get the feel for it," Klever said.
"I got a chance to get some reps, and actually played in preseason games pretty well as the third-team tight end behind Mickey Shuler and Glenn Dennison. And then Glenn got hurt and I started playing a lot."
Klever's first reception and touchdown occurred on the same play during an October 1984 game against the Patriots in New England.
"It was (rookie quarterback) Kenny O'Brien's first touchdown, as well," Klever said of the 7-yard toss. "It was kind of a little bloop pattern going out and coming back inside. He threw it right in my stomach and so I basically had to catch it. Kenny and I were roommates and good friends. He's my son's godfather. It's kind of cool for both of us to have our first touchdown with each other."
In 1985, Klever caught 14 passes for a career-high 183 yards and two touchdowns, and helped the Jets post an 11-5 record. That effort helped them make the playoffs for the first time in three years. They went 10-6 the following season and made the playoffs again.
"We stayed pretty healthy. The one year , we lost the last five games because (Joe) Klecko was hurt, Lance Mehl was hurt," Klever said. "I think the key is we were a really close team, everybody liked each other.
"There was no jealousy, no animosity. If I caught a touchdown, Mickey was happy. If he caught one, I was happy. There were times where Mickey and I would be in the game at the same time. And there were times when (wide receiver) Al Toon was out of the game and I was in. I'm thinking, why is Al Toon out of the game? Al was amazing, a great guy, a great teammate."
During Klever's five active seasons with the Jets, 1983-87, his name littered the depth chart. Second-string tight end, third-string quarterback, second-string punter, second-string kicker – if nothing else, Klever was versatile.
"Yeah. I mean, I was the third-team quarterback, but I never played it in a game. Now who knows what would have happened if I played, I might have sucked. So, maybe I wouldn't have been that versatile," Klever said with a laugh.
"I grew up playing everything, every sport, every position. I have two older brothers, and we would play touch football with three guys. I just had fun doing everything."
And what makes Klever most proud of his career?
"I think I was a good teammate. There was a time I was a special teams captain and it was cool to be kind of acknowledged as a team leader on a really good team of guys. I was pretty proud just making the team," he said. "Lance Mehl, Bob Crable and I get together once in a while, and Lance said I was 'one of the best football players on the team.' So, it was kind of cool to hear that from a guy that was just a tremendous, great football player."
Raised during his teenage years in Anchorage, Klever is in both the Alaska High School and the University of Montana Hall of Fames. He is the father of four: Jake, Allie, Kelly and Taylor; and grandfather of three. Retired, he makes his home in Linwood, NJ.
"I owned a bar for 14 years and a liquor store for 12 years. They were four blocks apart in Wildwood, New Jersey. My daughter, Allie, is opening up a bar and a restaurant in Egg Harbor Township. I'm kind of helping her with that," Klever said.
"And the last couple years I've been a babysitter for my grandkids. We all live close and we all kind of help each other out. The grandkids are great, my kids are great, it's fun to live in South Jersey near the beach. My kids are all active and good parents and they're all fun to hang out with."