When Fred Taylor arrived at Alltel Stadium last Thursday for the start of mini-camp, he had a prized pupil waiting for him in the Jaguars lockerroom. Taylor remembers being a rookie in 1998 when veteran James Stewart provided a helping hand for him, so he was ready to return the favor to the Jaguars' 2006 second round draft pick, Maurice Drew.
The two running backs immediately hit it off with Taylor giving Drew the go ahead to ask "anything at any time." Taylor knows Drew's situation as both players entered the NFL draft following their junior seasons. They spent time this weekend discussing the club's offensive system, and the two were often seen discussing plays on the field.
Most importantly for Drew, Taylor also offered advice that will help Drew adjust to life as a NFL player.
"Fred and I have talked a lot about a lot of stuff, personal and on the field," Drew said. "When I first met him, he said he was here with whatever I need. I told him I am here to learn everything from him."
Learning from Taylor is not a bad idea. Taylor has led the Jaguars in rushing in six of his eight seasons. He holds every career rushing mark in Jaguars history and is the only player in club history to rush for more than 1,000 yards. Taylor has career totals of 1,831 carries for 8,367 yards and 51 touchdowns.
"He's one of the best backs in the league," Drew said. "Learning from him is like learning from any of the best. He's been around a long time and he's played with a lot of great backs who taught him. It's kind of like passing it down."
Taylor feels the quicker Drew picks up the system, the better for the Jaguars.
"He has asked several questions and I have opened the door for him," Taylor said. Anything you need, anyone you need to know about, any plays, just ask. You have that type of mentality as far as wanting to learn, and his sense of urgency is already on a professional level. He is up with the tempo. He is up with the speed. He is a young guy that wants to learn."
The addition of Drew gives the Jaguars another running back to help spell Taylor at times, and Drew also earned All-Pac 10 honors in 2005 as a punt returner. Drew rushed for 2,500-plus yards in his career and ranked 13th in the nation in 2005 with 1,863 all-purpose yards (155.25 ypg).
"He's going to be a great player in this league," Taylor said of Drew. "He is going to take his time and learn everything so he can play that much quicker. When he doesn't have to think about what he has to do I think you will really see the talent come out."
Drew spent his first weekend as a Jaguar, along with his former UCLA teammate and Jaguars first-round pick Marcedes Lewis, studying the club's massive playbook.
"We are roommates right now so we go through the playbook together at night," Drew said. "We go over the same plays and ask each other what we do, how he would block it and how I would run it. It kind of helps both of us out. It's cool being here with him because I know how he is going to practice and work. He knows how I'm going to work and we push each other."
Lewis, much like Drew, has been learning under veteran tight end Kyle Brady. Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio has noticed the veterans taking the younger guys under their wing.
"I think it's important that our leaders be leaders, so you always hope that's the case," Del Rio said. "It's not always the case. So obviously I'm very pleased to see that and would like to see it continue. The guys who have been here understand how I want things done, how we're going to do it as Jaguars, and it's important to bring the new guys in and help them understand how we do things."
Drew came away from his first mini-camp impressed with how his new teammates welcomed him to the NFL.
"I don't know about how any other program is run, but everybody is helping you here," Drew said. "You are always going to compete when you're out there just to make plays because everyone else is. But everybody is just helping me out. Fred (Taylor) is helping me out, Alvin (Pearman), Toe (LaBrandon Toefield), they are just helping me. That's the best part about it.
"When you don't have to ask the coach too much, you can just ask one of the older veterans. Even some of the receivers are coming up and saying that was a nice cut or the quarterback will say good read. That is what is going to help me get better and get me to help the team."
Taylor has never been a vocal leader; instead, he prefers to lead by example. He is preaching that to the young running back corps.
"You just have to do what you do," Taylor said. "Just come here and work and let everyone fall in line. If you are working hard then they are going to work hard. It's no secret. I haven't been much of a vocal leader. When I feel like it's time to step up and say something, I will. I work hard then my group is going to work hard. My group is going to make everybody else enthused. That is what we do as running backs. We try to get everyone else to follow us. That is what our coach wants us to do so that is what we try to do."
Drew and Lewis will not be allowed to return to workouts until after UCLA's graduation in mid-June due to a NFL rule.
"It's going to be pretty tough, but I'm going to go out and work out as hard as I can," Drew said. "That is probably the only tough part about being from California. We don't graduate until later so I have to wait a month and half. It's no problem. I'm going to try and come back in and do the best I can."
The next step for Drew is to find a permanent home in Jacksonville prior to training camp. He plans on spending time in the next few months looking around at different areas. Of course, Taylor already has it planned out for him.
"I talked about moving out here to a nice place and he's broken it down for me," Drew said. "He said when I come back out to give him a call and he will show us. I'm just getting a relationship with him and I think our relationship is going to be pretty tight."