When Gary Kubiak received a Father of the Year award from a local non-profit group in 2009, he became visibly emotional as he spoke onstage at the ceremony. He called it “the ultimate compliment” in his life.
“My dad’s not here today, but he taught me that I really had two big responsibilities in life,” Kubiak said at the time. “I know I’m a coach; I know I’ve got a lot of responsibility over there on Kirby Drive. But really, my two biggest responsibilities in life are to be a good husband and be a good father.”
Kubiak and his wife, Rhonda, are the proud parents of three sons: Klint, 23; Klay, 21; and Klein, 19. And Kubiak has long taken the advice of his father Alfred, who passed away in 2010, to heart.
Klint is a graduate assistant at Texas A&M. Klay is starting grad school at TCU. Klein is a wide receiver at Rice. Somewhere in between the early mornings, late nights and long weekends that are typical for an NFL coach, Kubiak makes it a point to be with them as much as possible.
“It’s very important,” Kubiak said on Thursday, three days before Father’s Day. “In coaching, you spend a lot of time at the office, and especially six months out of the year it’s a pretty time-consuming job. My wife’s done a tremendous job with them, but one great thing for myself from a coaching standpoint is my kids have always been able to be a part of what I was doing.”
That’s because when Kubiak was an assistant coach with the Denver Broncos, Mike Shanahan would welcome staff members to bring their children around the office and to games. Kubiak has done the same since becoming the Texans’ head coach in 2006.
“Coach Kub is very father-friendly as far as your schedule is concerned,” said Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano, a single father of one. “Like during spring break, any time the kids are off in school, he knows they’re off. He’ll come by your office and say, ‘Hey, take off (early). Go be with them.’
“He knows it’s locked and loaded here pretty much Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays during the season, and sometimes a lot of dads don’t see their kids until Friday and then if we’re on the road Saturday, they don’t see ‘em. We come back late Sunday, they don’t see ‘em, and the cycle starts again. If we’ve got back-to-back road games, for example, I think it’s hard to spend a lot of time with your kids. He understands that.”
Most of the Texans’ coaches are fathers. Marciano has a unique situation in that his adopted son Joseph, 11, has autism.
During the season, Joseph stays with a caregiver during the day. Marciano arranges with Kubiak to come in to work earlier in the morning and leave a little bit earlier in the afternoon so that he can spend time with Joseph after school.
“I told Coach Kubiak and Coach (Dom) Capers and Coach (Tony) Dungy, the three coaches I’ve worked for, that my relationship and my time with my son is important,” Marciano said. ”And they agree.”
Marciano has learned how to reach Joseph through a psychological method called applied behavioral analysis. Joseph is an A and B student in school – Marciano calls him a “computer whiz” – and can often be seen roaming the halls of Reliant Stadium with his dad. All of the Texans’ special teams players know him, as do most of the front office staff.
Marciano’s close relationship with Joseph has been featured in USA Today and countless other publications. He has become a spokesperson for autism awareness and the All-Pro Dad and First Down Dads programs.
“I just enjoy my role being a dad,” he said. “It’s neat. It really is. It’s certainly more pressure on raising kids the right way than there is winning football games, I’ll tell you that. Especially with all the negative stuff you see out there around the country with young children that maybe come from households that don’t have dads. I’m not saying their lives are doomed, but their chances of getting in trouble or getting involved with drugs or being disruptive in society... I think the kids that don’t have father figures in their lives are more apt to find themselves in that role.”
This Father’s Day will be Marciano’s first without his own dad, who passed away this spring at the age of 88. Like Kubiak, Marciano bases much of the way he raises his son on the example of his father. He has fond memories of some of his father’s traditions – eating at 5 o’clock every day, going to church every Sunday, going to early mass and Yankees games on Father’s Day – but says that “probably the biggest tradition is my dad was at everything I ever did.” And that’s what he tries to do for Joseph.
Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison feels a similar obligation. Dennison and his wife, Shannon, have five children, including one son who graduated from Yale and another who was just drafted to play for the Houston Astros.
Dennison goes to every parent-teacher conference and went to all of his sons’ games when they were younger. These days, he’s become a regular at his twin daughters’ tap-dance recitals.
“Your primary role once you have kids is being a father, a father and a husband,” Dennison said. “We have a pretty high-pressure job, but we still do things (with our kids). I work – that’s what my job is, to be a coach, but my job as a husband and a father is more important.”
It’s been harder for Kubiak to see his sons as they grow older, but he has done his best. When Klein played football at Strake Jesuit High School in Houston, Kubiak would go to as many of his Friday night games as possible. Klein’s older brothers were playing football at Colorado State at the time, and Kubiak would watch their games on TV. For the ones that weren’t televised – which was most of them – Kubiak arranged for game tapes to be sent to Reliant Stadium the next week.
After Klein graduated in 2009, he often came to Reliant Stadium to work out in the weight room and run routes with Texans assistant coaches and players after OTA and mini-camp practices. Now that Klint and Klay are back in Texas, Kubiak is able to see them more as well.
“I’m very proud of them and what they’re doing,” Kubiak said. “I get a chance to see my youngest one play at Rice – whenever we have a home game, I’m able to go over there and watch a little bit of the game. The other two are getting involved in coaching themselves, so I talk to them about what they’re doing and who they’re working for and what they’re learning.
“I just spend a lot of time with them on the phone during the week. I talk a lot to my little one about not only football but school. Got one who’s married now, so we talk about that kind of stuff, too. Just try to stay very much involved in their life.
“They’re at that point right now where it’s time for them to kind of make their own way, and hopefully you’ve taught ‘em the right things. I know their mother has. We’ll find out if I have, so hopefully they continue to move forward.”
It doesn’t sound like Kubiak has much to worry about in that regard.