I had the privilege to talk with Marcus Stroud this morning after he officially announced his retirement from the NFL. After 10 seasons in the NFL, Stroud is ready to move on to the next stage of his life.
During our conversation, I couldn't help but think about his time with the club. I can still vividly remember walking into the locker room on a daily basis and seeing, really hearing, Stroud holding court at his locker in the corner. You could usually find Fred Taylor or Mike Peterson nearby, debating the day's hot topic. Of course, to the right of Stroud sat the imposing John Henderson. Each of the players had a long NFL career, with Peterson still on the Falcons roster.
Stroud arrived in Jacksonville as the 13th selection in the 2001 draft but he didn't crack the starting lineup as a rookie. He continued to work on his craft and eventually became a three-time Pro Bowl selection while playing in 100 games in seven seasons.
Jaguars general manager Gene Smith was witness to it all.
"Marcus was a rare blend of height, weight, speed, athleticism, and power," Smith said. "He was more of a down linebacker than a true defensive tackle, because of the movement skills he possessed for a six-foot-six, 300-pound player. Marcus was a disruptive force and someone who possessed dominant traits as an inside player."
The Jaguars defense with Stroud and Henderson ranked among the top 12 defenses in the NFL for five straight seasons. Stroud anchored a Jaguars defense in 2006 that ranked second in the NFL, the highest ranking in team history. In a four-year span from 2003-06, the Jaguars allowed only 11 100-yard rushers.
From 2003-05, Stroud was named a starter for three straight Pro Bowls and was regarded as one of the best tackles in the game. Stroud doesn't plan to get too far away from football as he prepares for the next stage of his life.
What went into your thinking in retiring as a Jaguar?
There wasn't much of decision. That's where I started my career and where I think I gained my notoriety. It's where I was able to have my best and most fun years playing the game. The Jaguars are like family and this is where I belong.
Have you had a chance to sit back and reflect on your career? You come in as a rookie and don't make a start but never got discouraged. Could you ever imagine that you would get 10 seasons in the NFL?
I thank the Lord for my blessings every day. I was able to have a good, long career and have some success. Most importantly, I was able to play with some great guys.
People are always going to associate you with John Henderson and what you both were able to accomplish. You look around the NFL and there haven't been many defensive tackle duos like yourself. How special was that relationship?
Very special. John and I were able to do some good things down there together. We are always going to be tied together and that's something I don't mind. John was a great player and great teammate. I couldn't have had asked for anything better to have a guy like John beside me.
You had a unique group of characters in the locker room while you were here with Big Hen, Fred Taylor, Mike Peterson, just to name a few. All four of you played collegiately in the Southeastern Conference. Who were some of your favorite teammates?
All of those guys you just named. We all stay in touch. I think we all had a familiarity with each other and once we got to Jacksonville we just bonded like family. I definitely can't forget guys like Tony Brackens, Donovin Darius and Gary Walker, just being around those guys and learning the game early. They were a blessing for me.
Who took you under his wing when you were a rookie?
Definitely Tony Brackens. Brack and Gary Walker taught me a lot about how to play the position and how to be a pro as far as approaching the game and getting ready throughout the week to play the game.
*When you look back on your career, does the 2005 team go down as the best team you played on? *
We had a lot of good teams in Jacksonville. A lot of people don't realize that we had winning records but couldn't make it to the playoffs some years. The '05 team was playing ball. That was definitely one of the best teams I've been on.
How tough was it missing out on the 2007 playoff run due to injuries?
That's my biggest disappointment, just being hurt while those guys were making that run up in Pittsburgh. I wasn't able to play and was forced to watch it at home. It was definitely the hardest part of my career.
The Jaguars have tried to recreate you and John Henderson at the defensive tackle position with Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu. Have you had a chance to watch these two much?
Both of those guys have great potential. They remind me of John and me; big, athletic, space eater type guys who can stuff the run and get after the passer. I really like the moves the team made this offseason. If the defense keeps playing the way it has then get a little help on offense this team has a chance to surprise some people in the AFC South.
*I don't know how much you keep up with the Jaguars but the hiring of Mike Mularkey has received positive reviews heading into training camp. *
That's what Jacksonville needed. When I was there Jacksonville was known as a pretty good defensive team and that trend still continues. Now with Coach Mularkey in there you have a guy who is great on the offensive side of the ball. That is the change the Jaguars need right now.
You earned your bachelor's degree at Georgia. Are you back in school now?Yes. I'm working on my master's degree through George Washington University. I'm going to get my MBA.
What's next for you in your post-playing career?
I definitely want to try stay close to the heart and do something in the realm of football. I want to do some broadcast work or potentially get a scouting job. My dream is to try and get in the front office and that's what I want to do. Tell Gene Smith to keep an eye out for me. I'm trying to get a job.