Jamar Newsome's phone rang shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday. It was a call he was expecting. Whether it was the call he was wanting . . .
Well, that was a whole different thing.
When Newsome, one of three rookie free agents to make the Jaguars' 53-man regular-season roster, heard Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith on the other end of the phone, he was on the sideline watching his former team, the University of Central Florida.
Newsome figured it was maybe good news. Because Saturday was cut-down day around the NFL, he hoped it was a good thing that he had heard nothing before 6 p.m., the time teams had to finalize their 53-man rosters.
Still, hoping for good news and hearing it are different things.
That made the first few seconds of Smith's call more than a bit nerve-wracking.
"I wasn't too sure about what was going to actually happen," Newsome said Monday, the first day the Jaguars' final 53-man roster and eight practice squad players began gathering to prepare for the regular-season opener against Tennessee at EverBank Field Sunday.
"I was just praying about it. That's all I could do. That phone call came. I just said, 'Ye-e-s-s-s-s-s . . .' It was after six, and I hadn't gotten a call I was released, so I figured, it must be good.''
Newsome wasn't alone among Jaguars getting life-changing, dream-achieving news early Saturday evening. Eight rookies made the 53-man roster, including all five draft selections: quarterback Blaine Gabbert (first round), guard Will Rackley (third), wide receiver Cecil Shorts (fourth), safety Chris Prosinski (fourth) and cornerback/safety Rod Issac (fifth).
In addition, three undrafted rookies also made the final roster, including not only Newsome, but offensive tackle Cameron Bradfield and cornerback Kevin Rutland, the latter two of whom received the news while watching college football in their Jacksonville hotels.
"I was just around waiting both Friday and Saturday," Bradfield said. "He called me after six and told me I had made the 53-man roster. Time kept going by and I kept waiting and waiting and waiting. It's really a nerve-wracking time."
Most nerve-wracking, he said, were the seconds before Smith actually broke the news.
"I'm like, 'Did I make it – did I not make it?''' he said. "The first thing he said was, 'Congratulations, you made the 53-man roster.' Then, I had a little sigh of relief."
Bradfield, who played collegiately at Grand Valley State, said his first call was to his mother, and then he called other family in Atlanta. Bradfield had played well during camp and preseason, but said while he felt good about his chances, "I honestly didn't know."
"I was thinking I was going to be at least on the practice squad, but you still never know," he said. "This is such a tricky business. I'm just happy to be here."
Bradfield said he, like the other rookie free agents, knows that making the team is just a first step to a long process.
"(Two-time Pro Bowl running back) Maurice Jones-Drew told me today walking to the training room, 'The work is just now starting,''' he said.
Rutland, like rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, played collegiately at Missouri. But unlike Gabbert, he didn't come to camp with a guaranteed roster position as the future of the franchise.
That made his Saturday a bit different than that of Gabbert, too.
Rutland said he slept about three hours Friday, and spent Saturday walking downstairs at the hotel to eat occasionally. Mostly, he watched television and tried to sleep.
"I was up all day long, waiting and waiting and trying to take a nap," he said. "The whole day people are telling me, 'Well, you haven't gotten a call yet; it may be good news.' I'm thinking, 'I know guys who have gotten a call and it wasn't good news, so it doesn't mean anything.' When he called, my heart was pounding. I'm thinking, 'Yay or nay?'
"He finally said, 'Congratulations.' "I'm like, 'Really?' It was a dream come true."
The rookies' first day as official members of the 53-man roster came on a day of optimism around the Jaguars – and a day of reflection and refocus for players of all ages.
"It's a blessed day," eight-year veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis said. "You're fortunate each year you're able to get on a 53-man roster. We walk around and tell each other, 'Congrats for making it another year,' and to the rookies, 'Congrats for making it this year.' Each year that goes by, you realize how fortunate you are.
"That's a plus, but having your core guys, the guys you know you're going to be with all season pretty much – that's exciting. You know now the guys you're taking into Week 1, the guys you're going to be lined up with next Sunday."
While Mathis' perspective is that of a veteran, what the rookies – particularly the undrafted ones – lack in perspective, they made up for Monday with wide-eyed, optimistic enthusiasm.
"It was a feeling I can't even really explain," Newsome said. "It was a crazy feeling, to be honest. There's 53 guys around here now. It's just an amazing feeling."
Also on Monday, Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio announced that the team has named six captains for this season, two each on special teams, defense and offense. They are: running back Maurice Jones-Drew (offense), tight end Marcedes Lewis (offense), defensive end Aaron Kampman (defense), linebacker Daryl Smith (defense), running back Montell Owens (special teams) and wide receiver Kassim Osgood (special teams).