ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - It has been a huge week for the Cox family.
Bryan Cox Sr. has spent the entire week working to figure out how to stop Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Bryan Cox Jr. has been working all week in St. Petersburg, Fla., looking to prove he deserves to be on the same field as Rodgers.
While the magnitude of the week's event will have a huge impact on each of their legacies in the NFL, the two have been forced to support each other from afar.
Cox Jr., who spent the last four seasons with the Florida Gators, has taken part in East-West Shrine Game practices this week and will play in the annual all-star showcase on Saturday. He will then return to Atlanta on Sunday to watch his dad coach in the NFC Championship Game.
Cox Sr., who serves as the Atlanta Falcons defensive line coach, was an NFL pass rusher for 12 seasons. He was selected to three Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. He won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots following the 2001 season.
Having an NFL player/coach as a father has prepared Cox Jr. for this week and the draft journey ahead. While he doesn't have his dad in his corner this week, he knows he is just a phone call away.
“We talk a lot actually,” Cox Jr. said. “Probably every other day. Now at the [Shrine] practices, he wants to talk to me every day and see how practices are going. See who I am talking to and all that. We definitely talk a lot and he definitely helps a lot.”
While Cox Sr. had to miss the big week, his son still has plenty of support in Florida. The father and son are represented by the same agent, Cliff Brady, who has become more like family than a business partner.
“No doubt about it,” Cox Jr. said. “He’s like a godfather to me. It definitely feels like family. Every time I’m around [Cliff], it’s like family.”
Brady has worked with the Cox family since before the young pass rusher was born. Brady signed Cox Sr. before the 1991 NFL Draft. Cox Sr. was selected in the first round by the Miami Dolphins.
The relationship grew from there, as Cox and Brady spent several New Year's Eve together with their families and their kids have become close friends. It's allowed for both to build a level of trust that is rare in the current climate of their business.
“Trust is a big thing in this business,” Brady said. “Because some people just want good, solid representation. It seems like that [type of representation] gets less and less as time goes on. Some people look for that and the fact that I’ve known [Bryan Cox Sr.] for 26 years is important and I don’t think there is too much of a doubt with what direction they were going to go in because he knows the type of job I did for him and the type of job I’d do for [his son].”
Cox Jr. had a disappointing senior year, as he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in November.
Cox Jr. put together two impressive seasons as a sophomore and junior. He has spent the last few days showing scouts and media members that he is still capable of that level of success.
“Just prove that I’m still the player I was,” Cox Jr. said. “Do the same things I was doing before I got hurt to prove to the scouts I can still play.”
With Brady in his corner, Cox Jr. has been impressing scouts throughout the week of practice. The Gators defensive end has consistently beat offensive linemen in 1-on-1 drills and produced no-contact sacks in team drills.
He has been one of the more sought after talents on the East team. On Tuesday, he spent 30 minutes talking to the Philadelphia Eagles after practice. On Wednesday, he repeated the post-practice interview process with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Cox Jr. believes he can play anywhere on the defensive line in the NFL and is open to playing outside linebacker. While he has been impressing as a pass rusher in practice, his strength is playing the run.
“I can do more than pass rush,” Cox Jr. said. “I think I stack up pretty high [with the other linemen]. I’m a versatile player. I can give teams whatever they want. I can play a multitude of positions.”
He models his game after Kansas City Chiefs outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. He says he enjoys watching them because they play the way he does.
With the NFL seemingly digging his style of play, one would think his father's Falcons would have some interest. However, that may not be the case.
“Not going to happen,” Cox Jr said. “Won’t be cool.”
Cox Jr. said his dad's preference is for him to go somewhere else to start his career.
“Because it crosses the line between business and family,” Cox Jr. said. “It’s not a good look.”
However, Cox Jr. wouldn't rule out a reunion down the road when he is a proven NFL veteran.
“Maybe that’ll be a different story,” Cox Jr. said. “That’ll be a conversation for a different day but as far as right now, in the developmental stages of my first years in the league, he wants nothing to do with that aspect. He wants to watch me grow from afar, basically.”
For now, they'll hold onto the memory of when Cox Jr. played youth football during halftime of one of his father's NFL games.
Cox Jr. was playing for the Massapequa Mustangs and he got to take a picture on the field with his dad, who was playing for the New York Jets at the time. The younger Cox said that was his first major NFL memory of his dad.
Their next major NFL moment together will be on draft day. The two men have been waiting for that day for quite some time.
“He’ll definitely, probably be a big part of that,” Cox Jr. said. “Cause at that point in time, he’ll be all family, but he has his obligations as a coach.”
As he continues to make the most of his first stop on the road to the draft, Cox Jr. plans to take in everything he has learned from this week. He knows that every little trick of the trade can help him.
“Use it as a learning experience mainly,” Cox Jr. said. “I’ve got NFL coaches coaching me, so I’ll take it as an opportunity to learn as much as I can, soak up the information and show them that I’m healthy and what I can do when I’m healthy.”
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.