JACKSONVILLE – This day mattered to Sen'Derrick Marks.
It mattered to Will Rackley, too.
Rackley, the Jaguars' third-year offensive guard, and Marks – a fifth-year defensive tackle – visited the War Eagles of Patrol Squadron SIXTEEN (VP-16) Tuesday, a day as memorable for the players for the squadron members attending the event at NAS Jacksonville.
"It's great," Marks said at the event, adding, "especially when you have family that's been in the military and just a full understanding of what they're going through and those guys support you and you supporting them.
"It's great to come out and actually give back and them accept us to come out and sign autographs for them."
Marks' father spent four years in the Army and he has a first cousin currently in the Marines. Rackley's father spent 12 years in the Army.
"It's absolutely incredible to have them out here, and to find out from these two guys their fathers are both in the military is just incredible and it's really cool that they're coming out to share their experience," Lieutenant Paul Andruzzi said of Rackley and Marks. "Seeing their faces, I think they are giving back to the community, which is awesome.
"They can see how much they are helping and how much the guys actually appreciate all the stuff that they're doing and the support that they get from the team."
The players delivered pizza, visited with sailors and signed autographs.
"I know it's pretty big for them," Rackley said, "but I enjoy it just as much as they do, just to be able to meet these guys and hear what they do for our country every day."
The War Eagles of Patrol Squadron SIXTEEN's mission is to provide maritime patrol services to the fleet in support of national interests. The squadron flies and maintains the state-of-the-art P-8A Poseidon to accomplish this mission.
"It's an honor to have these guys come out here, take time out of their busy schedules to come out here and kind of give back," Petty Officer Allan Trahan, a New York Jets fan, said. "It's a big thing for us to risk our lives every day to protect our country, so it's good to see these guys come back and show us their support.
"Since I'm in the area I root for them. They're the home team right now, so every game I hope they go out and win."
Said Commander Daniel Papp, VP-16 executive officer, "It's fantastic to have the support from the Jaguars team. There are a lot of local fans here with our sailors. We're getting ready to go out on the road on deployment, and it's just nice that we know the whole Jacksonville community is supporting our squadron and patrol squadrons in Wing 11, so thank you."
Andruzzi said he has an autographed Mark Brunell helmet and football, as well as a Fred Taylor autographed football. He said he attends about two games a year.
"I was stationed on the USS Saratoga back in the early 90s when they first found out we were getting the team in Jacksonville," Andruzzi said. "It just seemed like a natural fit because I've been in Jacksonville almost the last 20 years. It's basically my home team now."
Also on Tuesday:
*Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, along with wide receivers Ace Sanders and Jeremy Ebert, quarterback Matt Scott, offensive guard Drew Nowak and running back Jordan Todman, participated in the United Way Hometown Huddle at EverBank Field. One hundred fifty children participating in the United Way Achievers for Life after-school program were invited for outdoor activities with Jaguars players. "It's just for the kids – to have fun and get the point of exercising," Shorts said. "When I was younger, I didn't have this. To get a chance to give back to the community like this, it makes you feel good. I can understand where they're coming from."
*Cornerback Alan Ball visited St. Augustine Technical School for an NFL Play60 assembly, speaking to the children about the importance of eating healthy foods and exercise.
*Kicker Josh Scobee, wide receiver Mike Brown and fullback Lonnie Pryor signed autographs at Publix in Ponte Vedra Beach.