Picture your first day at a new job. You’ve gone through the introductions and training, but now it’s time to get to business and do what you were hired for. It can be nerve-racking.
Now imagine having to do this in front of over 60,000 screaming fans as you’re expected to revolutionize the organization you’re a part of from day one. Yeah … no pressure.
This is the exact situation Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette will find himself in when he steps onto the gridiron on September 10 in Houston. So it’s kind of a shock to see him so calm and confident. But once you hear about his intense preparation and training, it starts to make sense.
“I feel like playing in the SEC helped a lot,” Leonard said.
Before this past Sunday, it had been nearly a YEAR since Jacksonville Jaguars fans last celebrated a victory. On November 25, 2012, the Jags topped the Tennessee Titans 24-19 and went on to lose their next 13. Fortunately for them, Week 10 landed them in Tennessee, where they took care of the Titans again for their first win of this season.
As you’d expect, the game wasn’t pretty. Chad Henne competed 14 of 23 passes for 180 yards and no touchdowns. Maurice Jones-Drew led the rushing attack with 41 yards. Cecil Shorts topped the receivers group with 42 yards. However, the Jaguars’ defense forced four turnovers, which they converted into 17 points. They also tacked on a safety — two points that ended up being the difference in the game. A late rally attempt was held off and the Jags won 29-27.
Joining the Jaguars in picking up win number one was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who won an ugly Monday nighter against the Miami Dolphins 22-19. With these two results, there are no more winless teams in the NFL this season.
In other Week 10 action, the Seattle Seahawks thrashed the Atlanta Falcons for their best start in franchise history; the Baltimore Ravens held off the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime to stay in the playoff discussion; the Detroit Lions grabbed sole possession of the NFC North lead after topping the Chicago Bears; Philadelphia eased by an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team; the St. Louis Rams surprisingly blew out the Indianapolis Colts 38-8; the New York Giants won their third-straight game after beating the Oakland Raiders; Carolina picked up a signature win in San Francisco; Peyton Manning was injured in the Broncos’ 28-20 win over the division rival Chargers; and the New Orleans humbled the Dallas Cowboys 49-17 on Sunday night.
If you ever drive through my hometown of Iola, WI, you’ll notice a few things: there aren’t any stoplights, there are no fast food restaurants, and it only takes about 3 minutes get through the whole town. So how does a kid who had only 250-something students in his whole high school make it to the NFL?
Ever since I scored my first touchdown in third grade, I loved the game of football. I knew I wanted to play it as long as possible, but I didn’t have an end goal in mind. During my high school years, I had a dream of getting a full ride and playing football at the collegiate level. Although I had a very productive high school career, the Division I colleges weren’t giving me any respect because I supposedly didn’t “play against good competition.” This gave me a chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong — a chip that I still have to this day. It seemed like my dream was lost until a week before signing period, when Murray State University offered me a full scholarship. With that being my only full ride offer, I took it without hesitation and ironically being the only school that wanted me to play defensive end. My first two years were mediocre at best. I started every game except for one, but my numbers were far from expectations. It was my sophomore exit interview with the defensive line coach that set the path to where I am today. My coach told me that he was disappointed in me and that he saw something in me that I had to believe in. I took those words to heart. It was having the burden of letting my coach down that gave me a new found fire that helped take my training to the next level. It paid dividends during my next two seasons.
Going into my senior year, I was receiving ten different calls a night from agents and financial advisors. This started to become overwhelming until I took a piece of my mom’s advice that proved to be one of the most important decisions I have ever made. I turned my phone off. She told me, “You deserve to enjoy your senior year, just have fun with your team while you can.” I didn’t pay any attention to all the draft experts or what people were saying. Instead, I just focused on my teammates and doing everything possible to try to win a championship. I knew if I took care of business on the field, then the rest of the NFL distraction would be there when my season was done. After a late Senior Bowl invite and a good Combine showing, I became the highest drafted player in Murray State history. I was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars as the 158th pick in the fifth round.
As I write this bio, I am currently going into my second NFL season. The purpose of me writing this wasn’t to brag of my high school or college stats, hence why I didn’t share them. My stats didn’t get me to where I am today. My work ethic, passion, the great people in my life, and having a little faith got me to where I am. There is no trick or scheme, I am simply a product of my environment. It doesn’t matter where you come from, so much as where you’re going, but once you get to where you want to go I promise you will have a new appreciation for where you came from.
It was an unconventional week for NFL Player of the Week candidates. In Cincinnati, Miami place kicker Dan Carpenter successfully converted on 5 field goal attempts and added an extra point in a 22-14 Dolphins win over the Bengals. Rookie defensive end Ndamukong Suh supported Matt Stafford’s four touchdown passes with 4 tackles, two sacks and a fumble returned for a touchdown to help the Lions rally against the Redskins. However, this week’s honors go to Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard, who had a near perfect passing day to lift the Jags over the Dallas Cowboys in Texas.
Garrard was an endzone magnet on Sunday, finding paydirt 5 times on the day. After the Cowboys took an early lead on their first possession with a David Buehler field goal, Garrard marched the Jags down the field and responded with a 10-yard strike to receiver Mike Sims-Walker. He also found tight end Mercedes Lewis for a 42-yard score in the second quarter to put Jacksonville up 14-3 heading into halftime.
The offensive onslaught continued in the second half. On Jacksonville’s opening possession, Garrard found Sims-Walker twice for a total of 68-yards, en route to a 10-yard TD toss to receiver Mike Thomas. After a Jon Kitna interception on the next possession, the game continued to open up when Garrard and Lewis connected once again for a 28-3 lead. With the score at 28-10 in the 4th quarter, Garrard capitalized on another Kitna pick by trotting in the endzone on a 2-yard run. On the day, Garrard completed 17 of 21 passes for a QB rating of 157.8, just missing out on the perfect rating of 158.3. More importantly, he lifted Jacksonville to a much-needed win and back into the playoff picture.