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Back home in Jacksonville


Jeron Harvey was 10 years old when he heard the news Jacksonville was awarded an NFL franchise. Harvey lived on the east side of Jacksonville and the Jaguars immediately became his team.

Harvey followed the team closely while playing at Andrew Jackson High School but never had the opportunity to attend a game even though he lived 10 minutes from the stadium. He now has a locker with his name on it inside Jacksonville Municipal Stadium as a rookie wide receiver.

"I have followed them through the up and down years," Harvey said. "I always watched them on television."

Harvey, 6-5, 224, was signed by the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent and began practicing on Monday during the club's OTA's. The Jaguars have a plethora of receivers fighting for a spot on the roster with Harvey being the only rookie.

"I'm looking at it as every day I can come out here to compete and get better," Harvey said. "That is my main thing. I want to get better every day. You can never stop getting better. You can never stop learning. If the window is open, I want to be one of the best guys."

Harvey is an inviting target for quarterbacks with his height and long arms. That was not always the case. He stood only 5-9 as a high school sophomore until a growth spurt took him to 6-3 heading into his senior season.

His study habits weren't the best in high school so a Division I scholarship was not an option, but Harvey wasn't going to let it derail his dreams. He enrolled in Dodge City Community College in Kansas.

"Being a young man, it was my fault what I did in high school," Harvey said. "I just told myself that once I get away from all my surroundings, I can just focus on more of what I want to accomplish. Dodge City was the perfect small city. There was nothing to do but play football."

Harvey recorded 52 receptions for 14 touchdowns in his one season at the junior college that has produced former NFL players Steve Tasker, 1972 NFL MVP Larry Brown and current Tennessee Titans cornerback Reynaldo Hill.

The recruiting calls started to come in and Harvey decided on Houston, which had a standout quarterback in Kevin Kolb, the Philadelphia Eagles' second-round pick in 2007. Kolb and Harvey connected on 41 receptions for 671 yards and four touchdowns in 2006.

As a senior, Harvey started all 13 games at split end and finished with a career-high 55 receptions for 673 yards and three touchdowns.

Harvey didn't have high expectations for the NFL draft, but it wasn't for a lack of confidence. The Houston coaching staff had him run the 40-yard dash as a junior for pro scouts and he was clocked at 4.7, but it was a week after the team's spring game, in which he suffered a hip-pointer injury.

"The coaches wanted to see me run and they knew I wasn't 100 percent," Harvey said. "They just wanted to see what I could do for the scouts. I just went out and ran. I just knew that I was much faster than that."

Following the 2007 season, Harvey began training under speed guru Tom Shaw in Orlando. His speed improved but scouts weren't completely sold on the Houston spread offense. Harvey played in the slot and was overshadowed by teammate Donnie Avery, the first wide receiver selected in the 2008 draft as he went to St. Louis in the second round.

"You heard scouts and different people talking about how the offense was run," Harvey said. "It was really not a traditional offense or a pro style offense. Football is football. You are still getting coached on how you run certain routes, like coming in and out of breaks like receivers are supposed to do."

Following the draft, three teams were interested in Harvey as a free agent. He couldn't pass up the Jaguars.

"I just kept saying, 'Wow,' Harvey said. "I really get the opportunity to come back home and make the best of it and do whatever I can to help Jacksonville."

Harvey's parents, Cassandra and Jerry, were thrilled their son was getting an opportunity from the team the family has followed since its inception. Their son rarely visited Jacksonville while he played at Houston, trying to keep his focus on academics and football.

The adjustment of coming back home while trying to get his professional career off the ground is something Harvey is not taking lightly.

"I really don't hang around the same people I used to," Harvey said. "Now that I'm older, I understand this is your work. My friends also understand now that they are older. They understand I have a job to do and they want me to excel in my job. It just keeps me motivated to get better every day."

Harvey joins Rashean Mathis (Englewood) and Jamaal Fudge (Ed White) as current players on the Jaguars roster who played high school football in Jacksonville.

"You still see some of your friends you used to hang with and they are still doing the same thing," Harvey said. "I just feel the things that can drag you down, you can flip them back and use them as motivation."

Before reporting to Jacksonville last week, Harvey took a call from former high school teammate and current New York Jets running back Leon Washington.

"He was just giving me some pointers," Harvey said. "He has already been through the ropes in New York. He told me to go out there and have fun but to stay in the playbook."

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