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A big step

Posted May 7, 2012

Brown, Forcier among seven players signed after rookie minicamp

Mike Brown and Chris Forcier didn’t spend the weekend expecting perfection.

They were striving for it, though – that, and an opportunity. That made for a few stressful moments early Sunday afternoon.  Following the final practice of the Jaguars’ three-day minicamp – a tryout camp for most of the 50 players involved – Forcier, Brown and a few other players were gathered into a conference room at EverBank Field.

Good news? Or bad? For a few moments, no one knew. Soon enough, they were told they were being signed to the Jaguars’ 90-man roster.

In early May in the NFL, the news doesn’t get much better.

“It’s a very big step,” Forcier said Monday. “It was a great feeling. I’m looking forward to the next step, and heading back down there this weekend.

“I’m trying to work to that next stage where I can make it in the NFL and prove I belong.”

Forcier and Brown, from Furman and Liberty, were two of four rookies signed to the Jaguars’ 90-man off-season roster Monday afternoon. Linebacker Donovan Richard of South Carolina State and safety Jeremiah Brown of Wagner also were signed, as were three veterans -- quarterback Jordan Palmer, fullback Naufahu Tahi and defensive tackle Odrick Ray.

“I’m ready to keep going forward,” Brown said. “I’m still far from where I want to be, but it’s one step in the right direction.”

The Jaguars also released quarterback Dan LeFevour, wide receiver Jarett Dillard, safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, wide receivers Nelson Rosario and Jarrett Boykin and defensive end Frank Trotter.

The moves came in the wake of a rookie camp that featured six draftees, 17 undrafted free agents and 27 workout invitees. Each player had a story, and the stories of Brown and Forcier had striking similarities.

Each spent last season playing quarterback and each began working at receiver during the pre-draft process. That meant they were in an unusual situation this past weekend. They had to impress the coaching staff and front office, but at the same time there was learning going on.

“It’s frustrating at times,” Forcier said. “I’m out there thinking like a quarterback, and guys I’m competing with have been playing receiver their whole life. I’m used to dropping back and reading coverages. I know what I want in a receiver. It’s little tougher going out there and doing it, but I think the coaches think they can develop me.”

Brown, who passed for 6,072 yards at Liberty, played receiver his first two seasons at the school, catching 60 passes for 698 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore and 19 for 331 yards and one touchdown as a freshman.  Still, two seasons had passed since he played receiver.

“The toughest thing was learning, then trying to go out and run the routes the way coach had explained them,” Brown said. “I went down there with a mindset of, ‘I don’t want to get sent home.’ I was going to come down there, leave it all on the table. I felt like I had something to prove.”

If the weekend was part of a reclamation for Brown, it was a steeper learning curve for Forcier, who transferred to Furman from UCLA following his redshirt freshman season. His experience at wide receiver before this off-season was limited to the spring practice at UCLA following his freshman season, when then-Head Coach Rick Neuheisel tried him at receiver.

Forcier transferred to Furman shortly thereafter, and was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player as a senior, passing for 2,265 yards and a school single-season record 23 touchdowns.

“I did pretty well (at receiver), but at that time, my goals and aspirations were to play quarterback,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to make it to the NFL. This is a great opportunity. That’s where it lies, and I’m going to make the most of it. I’m out there to prove to the coaches that I can make the transition.”

A positive, each said, is the presence of Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan.

“He’s not going to sugarcoat it for you. If you’re not doing good, he’s going to tell you and if you’re doing good, he’s going to tell you,” Brown said. “That’s the only thing you can ask for. He has a standard and he’s not going to lower that standard for anyone.

“He brings up film and says, ‘This is how it’s supposed to look. This is going to take work. If everybody could do that, you wouldn’t have to practice,’ but it’s proven to work.”

And if Sullivan has a reputation as being a tough coach, Forcier said the advantage for someone trying to learn fundamentals is he can be assured he’s learning correctly.

“My whole thing was to take in everything Coach Sullivan was telling me,” he said. “I’m not going to question him one bit. He’s a stickler for technique, and that’s what I want. I don’t want it sugarcoated. This is the NFL. You have to be doing things perfect.”

That’s the ideal, but with perfection unrealistic in the NFL, each spent this weekend doing what he could to impress, to do enough to get another chance. Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey mentioned Brown publicly throughout the weekend as doing well, and while Brown said he thought he did well the first day, he also knew that wasn’t enough.

“You can’t go out there one day and expect to get signed,” he said. “The thing I learned in college was you have to be the same guy every day. I wanted to go out here and be the same guy every day, never take a play off and hustle.”

Mularkey didn’t mention Forcier publicly, but that mattered far less than what happened shortly after practice Sunday. Still in pads, still sweating from practice, they were called into a room.

“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Forcier said. “We’re looking at each other, ‘Did we do bad? Did we do good? Did they like us?’ We were trying to keep our anxiety down. Next thing you know I’m in (Jaguars General Manager) Gene Smith’s office and he’s telling me there were things I needed to work on, but that he wanted to add me to the 90-man roster. Just hearing that from his mouth was a big relief.

“It told me I did accomplish something, and that they saw some potential in me.”

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