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A well-deserved dream


JACKSONVILLE – He got to live the dream, and play the dream.

We're talking Brad Meester, and your first thought reading that line – live the dream, play the dream – may be, "What's that? C'mon, enough with the exaggeration."

No Pro Bowl appearances… No Super Bowl appearances…

Some playoff appearances, and honestly, many more disappointing seasons than good ones in terms of the team's record on the field…

Yes, though the reality is Meester -- the Jaguars' center who on Wednesday announced he will retire following the 2013 season after 14 NFL seasons, all with the Jaguars – indeed never was involved in a championship team. That's one way to look at it.

In Meester's case, it's also the wrong way to look at it.

In fact, it couldn't be more wrong.

Because to hear teammates tell it on Wednesday, Meester very much lived an NFL dream, one few players these days get to live.

"People dream about being where he is right now, being able to last in this league and play at a high level," Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis, a teammate of Meester's since 2006, said Wednesday.

Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, himself a seven-year NFL veteran, agreed.

"It's unbelievable," Posluszny said. "To play that long at a high level, and to be at one organization … Brad's career is the goal for everybody."

The goal yes, but …

"Nobody gets that – except Brad and a handful of other guys," Posluszny said. "I mean, nobody gets to experience that."

Meester not only experienced it, he did so for an organization that changed underneath his feet more than once.  He is not only the only player to play for all five Jaguars head coaches – Tom Coughlin, Jack Del Rio, Mel Tucker, Mike Mularkey and Gus Bradley – he's the only one to play for all of the team's general managers: Coughlin, James Harris, Gene Smith and David Caldwell.

"Different general managers, different head coaches, different offensive coordinators …" Posluszny said.  "They could have easily said, 'I'm going to bring in my guy. I've got someone else. You're a good player, but we're doing things a different way.' Regardless of who has been here, he has stayed because you look at him and he's a true professional, always here on time, highly reliable and does all of the things right.

"It speaks volumes about him, his abilities, his character. It's such an elite group of guys who are able to have that long a career, stay in one place, do all of the things right. It says a lot about him."

Meester never has been high-profile. No Jaguars player played more games, made more starts or did so more consecutive times than Meester, but being a center, it was largely done without notice. On Wednesday, when reporters and cameras crowded around his locker as he spoke of retiring, he joked that was more cameras than he had seen in a long time.

What Meester will see now, of course, is family. A lot of family. He and his wife, Jamie, have six daughters – Lily, Emma, Chloe, Sophia, Aubree and Adalynn. The oldest, Lily, turns 12 in a month; the youngest, Adalynn, is seventh months old. He wants the girls to be closer to their grandparents, and that's why the family will move back to Iowa in Mount Vernon.

"I told him, 'Now he get to leave the stresses of being at work for the stresses of being at home," Jamie said Wednesday afternoon with a laugh, adding seriously that while she and Brad talked often and extensively about the decision, in the end, it was all Brad.

"I told him it was his decision," she said. "Once he decided something, that's his decision. He's at peace."

That was easy to see Wednesday as Meester spoke. It's hard to imagine this being one of those difficult-transition-to-retirement stories you hear about in the NFL. Meester will miss football. As he said Wednesday, you don't do something for as long as he played football and not love it, and you don't love doing something that much and not miss it, but it's hard to imagine him being unable to fill the void left by the game.

The void he'll leave behind around the Jaguars? Well, that's a different story.

On the field, while he may not physically be the player he was even three or four years ago, he without question was critical to the offense. Lewis on Wednesday called him the offensive front's point guard, and you can't credit the offensive line for improving in a year of transition this season without crediting Meester's presence in the process.

But to limit his story to on the field would be to miss what Meester has meant to this franchise. He was asked Wednesday how he would like to be remembered.

"I think the big thing is just how I approach each day," he said. "I hope I left behind a good character for people to learn from in this locker room or outside of this game. I hope I had impact in the way that I played this game. That's the most important to me, that I did everything the right way.

"I hope that has some kind of impact on guys that have been in it."

He did just that, and because he did, got to live the dream, and play the dream.

And in his case few would argue it was a dream well-deserved.

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