OVIEDO – One Jaguars fan jammed among the festive crowd at the Friday evening Jaguars Caravan stop in Oviedo summed up the evening perfectly.
"Blake Bortles is Oviedo."
That is why an estimated crowd of over 1,200 jammed the parking lot of the Miller's Ale House starting six hours before the event for a chance to interact with the rookie Jaguars quarterback, a product of nearby Oviedo High School and the University of Central Florida.
"This is cool," Bortles said during his first return to his hometown since the 2014 NFL Draft. "It's everybody from Oviedo, UCF alumni, so everybody from the town, Jags fans, Knights fans, Oviedo Lions fans, so this (Oviedo) will always be a getaway and a safe place to come home to."
Bortles was accompanied by rookie running back Storm Johnson, his teammate at Central Florida, and fourth-year wide receiver Cecil Shorts III. The story of the evening was the reaction to Bortles' return to Oviedo.
With the event scheduled to end around 7:30 p.m., the official traveling party, including Shorts and the ROAR of the Jaguars cheerleaders, had to return to Jacksonville. Bortles and Johnson, who were staying in the Orlando area Friday night, continued to sign autographs until nearly 9 p.m. and until all fans were accommodated.
Bortles said that type of interaction was something he learned as a youngster.
"I kind of took note of that growing up going to spring training (baseball) games and seeing guys who would hang out and connect with the following and guys that would ignore people," Bortles said. "I always wanted to be the guy that would talk to anybody."
When asked about the "Bortles is Oviedo" comment, Jaguars season ticket holder Kent Mullens, an Oviedo resident since 2001 originally from Jacksonville, said it made sense.
"He's that same type of person that comes from around here," Mullens said. "It's a middle-class, working town. We're right next door to Orlando, but we're a middle-class community, and that's what he is."
Not a whole lot of these. A ball signed by @BBortles5 & his brother, @OleMissBSB infielder @colbybortles #JagsCaravan pic.twitter.com/Qn9qi0SqUo — Jacksonville Jaguars (@jaguars) June 21, 2014
Mullens said Bortles should fit in perfectly with the feel of Jacksonville.
"He's Jacksonville too. Jacksonville and Oviedo are one and the same. To be honest, there are a lot of the same types of families and communities.
"He is what that is, at least what I've seen of him."
QB @BBortles5 talks with Oviedo Mayor @dppiere! #JagsCaravan pic.twitter.com/KO5jIeGFd4 — Jacksonville Jaguars (@jaguars) June 20, 2014
For brothers Chris and Eric Dailey, Jaguars fans from Orlando, the feeling when the Jaguars drafted Bortles was unique.
"Disbelief is what it was," Eric Dailey said. "It was like 'No, they didn't tell me that. Somebody pinch me. That's not right.'"
The brothers can feel the energy from the Jaguars organization continuing to grow in the Orlando market, even in local sports bars.
"When we go to the sports bars and the Jaguars game is on the big TV, they (Bucs and Dolphins fans) deal with it," Chris Dailey added.
Mullens said his reaction after the Bortles selection was pure elation.
"I've never erupted so much on my couch, even with a bad Achilles, I went almost through the roof," Mullens said. "I thought they would pass. I'm like 'No, this is their pick.' I was sure it was their pick, even when they were all telling me 'No,' I was sure it was their pick. And then it came through, I was shocked."
Mullens said he can also feel the Jaguars reach growing in Orlando.
"I'm usually the butt of a lot of jokes around here and have been for a few years, but it's nice to see it (changing)."
Bortles, who attended a few games in Jacksonville as a fan in the past, said that Jaguars Caravan events can only help grow the Jaguars fan base in the Orlando area and beyond.
"We want to make as many fans as we possibly can and connect with the following all over the country, and the world as a matter of fact," Bortles said. "As many people as we can touch and get in contact with and hang out with and talk to, the more the merrier."
The Jaguars Caravan continues Thursday, June 26 in Brunswick, Georgia at Glenn Place Mall at 6 p.m. The final caravan stop for 2014 is Friday, June 27 in Tallahassee at the Miller's Ale House, starting at 6 p.m.
What a turnout! Over 1,200 people in attendance at the #JagsCaravan in Oviedo! pic.twitter.com/GDP0r7CSOk — Jacksonville Jaguars (@jaguars) June 20, 2014