JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars have seven selections in the 2018 NFL Draft, which begins with Round 1 Thursday. What is the feeling when a player gets the call? Senior writer John Oehser talked to seven current Jaguars players this week to find out …
Blake Bortles, quarterback, 2014 first round. Jaguars official on the call: General Manager David Caldwell.
"It's incredible; you go [to the draft as a probable first-round selection] and you have a pretty good idea you're going to go in the first round and someone's going to call you at some point, but there's no way you can prepare for what it's like when it happens. I left [the green room after Caldwell called]; my mom was mad because we didn't get the picture of me hugging my mom on camera because I was already gone. I walked on stage, [Jaguars director of public relations] Tad [Dickman] gave me the [Jaguars] hat and my buddy was in the front row trying to get on stage. Security was throwing him out. I saw the video recently, and as soon as I walked around the corner I'm laughing because he's trying to get on stage and there are three security guards trying to hold him back."
Marqise Lee, wide receiver, 2014 second round. Jaguars official on the call: Then-offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.
"It's excitement. I knew I was going to get drafted; I didn't know exactly where, but I knew I was. I still was eager and anxious to see who wanted me. Once you get the call, it's amazing. All that time you put in … it's a relief off your shoulders. Coach Jedd [Fisch] called me; the first thing he said was, 'We tried to get you at [the University of Miami] and we didn't get that opportunity, but now we've got you.' Then Dave [Caldwell] hopped on and said, 'We've been looking at the film and appreciate everything you've been doing throughout your college career. We're looking forward to coming here and doing what you need to do here.' Whoever drafts you, at the end of the day you know that team sat down through the process and paid attention to you. I knew they really wanted me, and that's the best feeling ever – having a team that really wants you – so I was excited."
Dante Fowler Jr., defensive end, 2015 first round. Jaguars official on the call: Caldwell.
"When you get the call, everything goes out the window. You're basically like a kid all over again. You're surprised. You don't know what's going on. Your heart drops. When I got the call, I got super-emotional. I couldn't believe it was actually happening; all the hard work and everything I dreamed about was actually happening in that moment. Even though you know, it's still shocking that an NFL team is calling you and asking you to be part of their ball club … it's crazy. Dave called and asked me if I was ready to get on board and be a Jaguar. [Jaguars Owner] Shad Khan told me he was happy for me and felt good. It was just a surreal moment and one I'll never forget. It was such a dream come true. I always dreamed about being in the green room and getting that call, so when it actually happened it was like everything had happened for that one moment. After that, it was gone and I was in the league."
A.J. Cann, offensive guard, 2015 third round. Jaguars official on the call: Caldwell.
"I was waiting for a while. You hear all these draft things about where you're supposed to go and as a college kid, you're like, 'Oh, man, I'm supposed to go here or there.' It took longer than I expected because you don't know. I was frustrated and had my head down. I felt the phone vibrating and all of a sudden I get a weird 904 number. I pick up the phone and it's like, 'Hey, A.J.' I'm like, 'What's up?' He [Caldwell] was like, 'Do you know who this is?' 'I was like, 'No.' He said, 'It's Dave Caldwell, general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars. We're going to take you here with the 67th pick.' Everything in the world stops for a minute. You've got to take a minute and catch your breath. It doesn't hit you; it's surreal. It was amazing. I got the call I wanted. I had been thinking, 'Dang, no one's calling me … no one's calling me.' As soon as I got it, it was a done deal. Now, it's all in front of you."
Yannick Ngakoue, defensive end, 2016 third round. Jaguars official on the call: Defensive coordinator Todd Wash.
"I was just ecstatic to have a guy believe in me. I was kind of mad because teams that brought me in for visits who were supposed to draft me and told me they were going to take me in a certain round didn't draft me in that round. After having a [pre-draft] workout with Coach Wash, he believed in me. He had told me, 'If you're on the board we're going to come get you.' He was a man of his word. I took that to heart and ever since then, I've tried to have the best work ethic to not let them down. It's emotional and it's a special feeling knowing someone believes in you. You have to show them right to everybody else. His word was his word and he told people, 'This kid is going to come help us win.' I had to make sure I came in and did that."
Dawuane Smoot, defensive end, 2017 third round. Jaguars official on the call: Caldwell.
"It was pretty cool and it was honestly a relief more than anything. During my draft experience, I was a little disappointed because I thought I was going in the second round. I walked away from the television and went outside with my [now-]fiancé and I was really just mad and sad – a mix of emotions. When I felt like I was giving up, that's when I got the call. It was a big relief, I went downstairs and I was congratulated by my family. It was really a happy moment. The only way I can explain it is it's a big weight off your shoulders. It all goes away instantly. All of the emotions you were feeling … right when you get the call, it all goes away. They fly you out the next day and you're here and you're like, 'This is my new beginning. It's a new life for me.'''
Dede Westbrook, wide receiver, 2017 fourth round. Jaguars official on the call: Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin.
"The moment of the call, it felt surreal to me. Coach Coughlin talked to me about my skill set, and that I could play immediately and help the team get to the Super Bowl. He talked to me of course about being disciplined and being able to be on time and take care of business when I got here. Of course it's something you always dreamed of, being drafted by a team. In my case, it was a team I wanted to be drafted to; Jacksonville was a team I had visited and I felt like it was home when they called me. It was surreal for me and my family, and it was great to experience that moment with people who loved me and helped me get to where I was."