HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Jerricho Cotchery was frustrated with what was going on in his personal life, and it showed in a rare display of emotion on the football field.
After catching a pass during the New York Jets' second preseason game this summer, Cotchery was tackled just short of the end zone. The normally stoic wide receiver slammed the ball down in anger and was called for a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty. The Jets ended up settling for a field goal.
``Things were still in the back of my mind,'' Cotchery told The Associated Press on Friday. ``I tried to block it out, but some of the things I did during that game weren't even in my character.''
That's because shortly before the game, Cotchery had been informed by his wife, Mercedes, that their adoption attempt had suddenly fallen through. It was crushing news for the couple, who married knowing they wouldn't be able to physically have children.
``It was tough at that time, real frustrating,'' he recalled. ``But it was something that we were able to get over soon afterward.''
Another baby became available to the Cotcherys a few weeks later through another adoption agency. This time, everything worked out as planned. Jacey Cotchery - named after her father's initials - turned two months on Oct. 24, and has fit right in.
``It doesn't even seem like she's not my blood,'' Cotchery said. ``Everytime I look at her, I see my features and my wife's, too. When something is weird like that, it's got to be God-related. That feeling is so good.''
Cotchery has a reputation for having great hands. He's got them in the nursery, too.
``He's so awesome,'' Mercedes said in a telephone interview. ``He does diapers and bottles. We both come from huge families so he was so used to babies. In fact, he taught me how to fold up a dirty diaper. I mean, I knew how to do it, but he does it so neatly, like a picture.''
While the Jets have struggled to a 1-7 start, Cotchery has followed up a breakout season with another impressive year with a team-leading 46 catches, 592 yards and a touchdown. The numbers don't reflect the emotional ride he and his wife have been on since the offseason.
The couple met in 2001, while they were both at North Carolina State and were married a month after Jerricho was drafted in the fourth round by the Jets. They knew early in their relationship that Mercedes wouldn't be able to carry a baby, so they began exploring the possibility of surrogacy.
``In the midst of all this, I became apprehensive,'' Mercedes said. ``This was what was hard, to go to Jerricho and say that all this time we thought we would have biological kids through surrogacy, but I'm not quite sure this is what God has in store for me.''
Mercedes soon decided she wanted to adopt.
``My reaction to her was, `Ummm, I don't know about that,' but in my head I was like, `No way,''' Jerricho said. ``Adopting wasn't even on my mind. I just wasn't comfortable with it at all.''
That all changed when the couple attended a spiritual retreat in California last February. The Professional Athletes Outreach is an annual event that's affiliated with the NFL, and Dr. Voddie Baucham was one of the speakers. Baucham has several adopted children.
``From just hearing him speak, it just changed my heart totally,'' Jerricho said. ``At the end of the retreat, I was ready to adopt. It's crazy, man, really unexplainable.''
Jerricho stood up at an open-mic session when people were invited to share their thoughts on the experience and announced to the crowd of over 400 that he wanted to adopt a child.
``He told me when he told everyone else,'' Mercedes said with a laugh, ``so I was surprised.''
They immediately began the adoption process and thought they had found the perfect situation in August, but the mother decided to keep her newborn.
``It didn't work out, and when it didn't I had plenty of doubts,'' Jerricho said.
A few weeks later, another opportunity presented itself. Mercedes flew down South to meet the baby and her biological family. Jerricho stayed in New York because the Jets were practicing for their season opener against New England.
Jerricho rushed home after practice on Sept. 5 so he could change cars - he needed to get the one with the car seat - and headed to LaGuardia Airport to pick up his wife and new daughter.
``I was like, `Wow, man, that's my wife and my baby girl right there,''' Cotchery said. ``It was an amazing feeling because once I saw her, I felt like my wife had the baby. I just felt like I missed the delivery.''
The Cotcherys are enjoying every minute with their daughter and plan to adopt again in the future.
``The road wasn't easy, but it was still at a point where God made us comfortable and let us know that he was going to take care of us,'' Jerricho said. ``We realize how blessed we are. She gets 1,000 kisses a day.''

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