When Jaguars Legends gathered for their annual weekend in Jacksonville in early October the stories were a little better and the memories a little brighter than usual. That's what a Gold Jacket can do; it helped transform an ordinary Legends Weekend into an amazing celebration of a franchise and its former players.
Tony Boselli's induction into the Professional Football Hall of Fame energized the men who played with him and those who came after him to celebrate the Jaguars first Gold Jacket. A great group of guys represented Jaguars Legends and came to be a part once again of the NFL in Jacksonville.
The week kicked off on Tuesday at Academy Sports + Outdoors. Some of the local guys who have stayed attached to the game by coaching youth football were given $1000 gift cards to help with their efforts to promote the game and give kids a chance at a positive opportunity in sports. Quarterback David Garrard, wide receiver Ernest Wilford, linebacker Kevin Hardy and defensive end Jason Babin took advantage of the chance to help their kids which Academy Sports + Outdoors so graciously afforded them.
The guys who live outside the Jacksonville area arrived on Friday evening for fun and fellowship at Top Golf. Former players and guests swung the club and relished the chance to spend time with guys they played with and to get to know other men who wore the teal and black. The food and drinks were plentiful but not nearly as plentiful as the stories and a few might say exaggerations that flowed from bay to bay.
"That was the best thing we've ever done," said Boselli who couldn't wait to spend time with his friends and former Jaguars. "If the Jaguars will keep doing fun things like this for us we'll have a lot more guys join us every year and this Legends program will take off."
That was the goal for a reimagined program designed to build a community among former Jaguars to offer opportunities for networking, business, community service and support.
"This is great. This is what it's supposed to look like," explained linebacker Tom McManus over breakfast the next morning. "You want to make it fun, but you also want to connect the guys with the team and make them feel like they're a part of it all."
Team president Mark Lamping addressed the Legends after breakfast and then the players took turns sharing their thoughts. Boselli and Fred Taylor encouraged the players to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Jaguars and the Legends representatives from the NFL office who came to answer questions about player benefits and support programs. Taylor spoke about the privilege of being a Jaguar and having represented the franchise in the NFL while Boselli asked them to reach out to guys they played with to get them involved and stay connected.
After breakfast head coach Doug Pederson invited the Legends to watch the end of practice then made sure his players knew the significance of the moment and encouraged them to introduce themselves. Safety Andre Cisco found safety Donovin Darius while running back Travis Etienne sought out Fred Taylor and cornerback Tyson Campbell was seen chatting with Aaron Beasley. Linebackers Josh Allen and Travon Walker might have gotten the most of the interactions with all-time sack leader Tony Brackens on hand they spent the better part of a half-hour fine-tuning technique from the man who had 55 career sacks.
On Saturday evening a star-studded cast arrived at the Ritz Theater in LaVilla for the debut of "71" the Jaguars Productions documentary detailing the rise of Boselli from quarterback want to be to Hall of Fame Left tackle. Running backs James Stewart and Taylor, right tackle Leon Searcy, guard Rich Tylski, wide receiver Jimmy Smith and a host of former Jags were on hand to raise a glass to Tony and enjoy an NFL Films caliber presentation and get an up close and personal look at the bust that resides at the Hall of Fame.
The Texans game on Sunday was the main event. Everyone was excited for halftime when Tony would be honored by the Hall and Jaguars owner Shad Khan. The day began with more Legends on hand in the Biergarten for breakfast. Tight end Kyle Brady was seen deep in conversation with linebacker Jeff Kopp while offensive tackles Jeff Novak and Bob Whitfield, guard Greg Huntington and safety James Boyd, defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, Garrard, Hardy, Wilford and so many more soaked up the sun.
A fan engagement offered the chance to listen to as many stories about their playing days as they told while signing autographs and taking selfies. The love between the town and it's team shone as bright as the sun and the smiles all around told the story. The players were glad to be back, and the fans were thrilled to get time up close and personal with their favorite Jaguars. The roar of the crowd in pregame matched the fans during the autograph session and more than one Legend was seen hamming it up as the cameras came their way.
Halftime lived up to the billing. Jaguars owner Shad Khan presented Tony with his Hall of Fame ring and the special surprise of officially retiring No. 71. The emotion of the moment was captured in Boselli's smile as they dropped the banner over his name in the Pride of the Jaguars revealing a gold 71 and the Hall of Fame logo.
It was the kind of weekend that pro football dreams are made of and we're hoping those guys who couldn't join us in 2022 are already thinking they don't want to miss 2023.
From community shopping sprees and reunions at Top Golf to attending practices and hitting the field on game day, Jaguars Legends gathered for their annual weekend in Jacksonville in early October.