Feb. 11—For Father Richard Rocha, the Catholic chaplain for the Kansas City Chiefs and a St. Joseph native, football was actually his first love.
"I played for Coach Dan Tabor, longtime football coach at Christian Brothers and then Bishop LeBlond High School," Rocha said. "And then it was during that time that I really felt a call to, you know, my love for football and wanting to coach."
One day, Rocha went to mass with Tabor on a Friday night. From there, he began going more frequently until the priest asked him about potentially becoming a priest himself.
It took time for Rocha to realize that the goals he originally had may be changing
"I remember my face just fell into my hands and my eyes welled up with tears and I said, 'Maybe he does, monsignor, but I don't want to be a priest,'" Rocha said. "I want to be a football coach. I want to get married and have a family. And that whole route and I was decent at it, you know, that I loved it."
It was advice from the monsignor that ultimately led Rocha to the priesthood.
"God needs good, strong men to be husbands to his church and fathers to his people," Rocha said. "When he said that, it just a weight lifted off."
Rocha went to Mundelein Seminary near Chicago, which was near a high school that had football games on Friday nights. He would attend games and occasional practices but knew he was in the right place.
Rocha has been a Catholic priest for over 21 years, but it was in 2006, serving as the Bishop Secretary, that his journey to the Kansas City Chiefs began.
"Mike Sweeney, who played for the Royals at the time, called up and said, 'Can the bishop, you know, celebrate mass for us? This our last home weekend,'" Rocha said. "I went with him and I was the master of ceremonies. And afterward, Sweeney asked the bishop, 'Next season, can we have mass here every weekend that we're home?' And the bishop said, 'Absolutely, I'll do the first one and father will do the rest of them.'"
After a decade of working with the Royals, his duties were called upon to be the Catholic chaplain for the Kansas City Chiefs. Both of these are positions he still holds to this day, as well as serving as Catholic chaplain for the Kansas City Police Department.
For Rocha, who once had aspirations of becoming a professional football coach, his passions came together for this position.
"I did not win a championship ring on the state level in high school, on the college level, national championship on the college level, and obviously didn't get to the pros at all for coaching," Rocha said. "Right now, I've got two Super Bowl rings and just never would've fathomed."
Rocha balances the weekly mass for the team along with being the pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine parish in Blue Springs. He is in Las Vegas with the team, where it will be business as usual as the Chiefs look for another Lombardi trophy.
"One of the coaches usually does the readings and serves," Rocha said. "They just want to enjoy the mass. Status quo, we'll be doing mass but it'll be in Las Vegas instead of Kansas City."