The blank corner wall in Mike Westhoff's office was the only hint of change to come.
The images from his shark fishing excursions off the Florida coast had been taken down, removed from their frames and tucked safely away in a large black photo album the Jets special teams coordinator is eager to show off.
But as of 9:30 a.m. on Friday, everything else in Westhoff's office still was in its rightful place. The blown-up game day photos still covered the walls from carpet to ceiling. His inspirational laminated messages -- such as "Put some space between your anger and your intellect" ("I swear I have to read that every day. Every day," Westhoff quipped) --- remained on full display. The small, circular table in the middle of the room was still filled with family photos. And the same bright-eyed close-up of his grandson, Thomas, remained front and center.
"I treat this like my home," the Jets coordinator said, his eyes darting from the battered Wichita State helmet he wore during his college playing days, to the picture of his friend, former Dolphins coach Don Shula on his desk, to the 2012 Telly Award he received for his TV segment on shark fishing.
"That's what I wanted it to be. And I wanted to decorate it with big plays -- touchdowns or blocks -- so when guys come in and they sit with me, it's not just some stark, dark, cold room. It's actually a place that has particular meaning."
But soon, Westhoff's office will be stripped of all these sentiments.
Sunday's season finale in Buffalo marks the start of his official retirement from coaching.
The Jets' 2012 season has been rocky, to say the least, and their special teams play is no exception. But if there's one parting lesson Westhoff hopes his players will carry with them, it's this:
"That they learned," he said.
"To be honest with you, I'm a little bit like Bob Knight. They don't all have to like them, and I sure as hell don't have to like all of them. But there has to be that realm of respect. I really do respect what they do because I think this is very difficult. I know what it's like to walk around in my life being a little uncomfortable. Because I've got more artificial parts than anybody in New Jerseys. I get it. I have as many scars. And I have blood from more different people -- I'm related to everyone. So I'm the least racist person around, cause I've got some blood from every nationality in America floating through me. So I do respect them, what they go through. Cause it's physically tough. And I have tremendous respect for that.
"What I wanted them to know at the end of the day is, that they learned something about this part of the game. That whenever they hear things, whether it's down the road or when they're done playing, they can look back and say: 'I learned a lot about that part of the game. I know how this works.'"
Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley admitted his relationship with Westhoff has had its fair share of ups and downs. "It's give and take with him," Kerley said. "...Obviously, when I'm doing good, he's on my good side. And when I'm doing bad, he's not the first person I want to see. But you've got to respect him for that. Cause he never switches up."
Sprinkled among the multitude of pictures in Westhoff's office are laminated quotes, ranging from humorous sayings ("You know that I know that you DON'T know") to messages promoting Zen-like contemplation.
"I like a lot of the signs because they remind me of things that I believe," Westhoff said.
One of his favorites is "The MEN play on Sundays."
Just recently, Westhoff said he brought several pictures to a special teams meeting of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Peyton Manning on game day.
"Kobe Bryant had a three-piece, $4000 suit on. LeBron James had a gorgeous suit. Peyton Manning -- well, you can imagine," said the Jets coordinator. "Sometimes, they all had ties. Sometimes they didn't. But the point is, there was a realm of professionalism and respect for their role and what they were doing.
"And we had guys that looked like they were in Greenwich Village Pride Parade. This isn’t how it works. If your pants are below your ass, working at the mall. God bless you. If that gets you a date – good for you. But that’s not how we’re coming to the game. I actually showed them. I respect their individualism. I’m older now, so it’s obviously a different culture for me with the music and things. And I’m happy for them. It doesn’t mean I’m playing it in my car. But it’s OK. I get it.
"But there are realms of everything. Don’t let it interfere with the bottom line of what it takes to be prepared to play in our business. It’s a privilege.”