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A golden afternoon

Posted Aug 5, 2012

Jaguars players, fans watch Sanya Richards-Ross win gold in 400 meters

Mike Mularkey never doubted Sanya Richards-Ross would have her golden moment.

So, with Jaguars cornerback Aaron Ross an ocean away watching his wife fulfill her Olympic dream, Mularkey – the Jaguars’ first-year head coach – wanted somehow, someway to have training camp in Jacksonville feel a little more golden on Sunday.

Mission accomplished.

Moments after Sunday’s afternoon practice, Jaguars players walked inside EverBank Field. With many of the 1,102 fans who attended practice on one side of the field, and with players and coaches unaware of the result, a Jumbotron showed the women’s 400-meter dash, which ended at Olympic Stadium in London about an hour before.

Players and fans yelled encouragement as Richards-Ross came from behind in the final stretch.

When she crossed the line first, players and fans cheered together.

“It was really a classy thing to do,” Jaguars veteran wide receiver Lee Evans said. “Everyone wanted to see it, and it was good that he (Mularkey) was able to pull everybody together and do that. A lot of guys had interest in it. It was special. You don’t get an opportunity to do that very much.”

Said Mularkey, “That was a good way to finish practice. That was a neat experience for the players. I don’t think any of them knew. The fans did a great job. I think that brought us a little closer as a team. It felt good to be out here with them to watch that. We’re all proud of her, very proud of her.”

Ross, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason, left for London to be with his wife on Friday, and is expected to return to Jacksonville Monday night.

Mularkey said he began thinking of a way to allow players to see the race around noon Sunday. With practice beginning at 3 and Richards-Ross scheduled to run at 4:10 p.m., he said he ideally would have had televisions at practice to show the event live, but time didn’t permit that. As it was, he said many of the Jaguars’ front office worked throughout the afternoon to set up the post-practice viewing for players and fans.

Fans and media attending practice were asked to not tell players and coaches the result of the race.

“We wanted somehow, someway to let everybody see it first, knowing we were going to be right in the middle of practice when she was running,” Mularkey said. “A lot of people did a lot of work to make this happen. For the fans to be a part of it was something else.

“I don’t think anybody on our team knew. That’s what was so exciting about it.”

Richards-Ross was the No. 1-ranked woman in the world in the event entering the Olympics.

“I was just hoping she ran the race she wanted to run,” Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “With doing that, I knew she would win. I’m ecstatic, excited for him. He got a chance to go over there and see his wife win a gold medal, which is awesome. It’s an experience they’ll never forget.”

Mathis said it was also a powerful team-building moment.

“It’s the little things,” he said. “It definitely is. It means a lot. When Aaron comes back, to know we did it like that, I’m sure he’ll be pleased as well. The little things like that make you want to play a little harder for the guys next to you and for the coaches who are coaching us.

“It speaks volumes.”

Mularkey also said something could be learned from how Richards-Ross not only ran, but how she handled the pressure of expectations.

“The whole time she’s been there, she’s been expected to win it,” he said. “That’s easier said than done and to come around that turn being behind, being third, and kicking into an extra gear and finding a way to finish on top – I’m hoping that everybody saw that. That relates to all sports. You’ve got to find something deep down and find a way to win. She did. Hopefully we got something out of that.”

Mularkey, for his part, admitted he was a bit relieved with the outcome considering the logistics that went into the afternoon.

“I’m glad she did it,” he said, laughing. “I really didn’t have a doubt. She believed she was going to win it, and I think Aaron did. I think we all did in that room.”

Mularkey said before Ross left Jacksonville, the Jaguars as a team told him, “Tell her, ‘Go get it for us.’’’

“I think we all believed she was going to win it,” he said. “I think she did, too, the way she ran it.”

And yes, Mularkey said, he absolutely said he wants to see the gold medal at some point – and probably some point pretty soon.

“That was part of the deal – if he goes, she has to come back (here) with it,” Mularkey said with a laugh. “We’re going to hold her to it.”

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