Jacksonville resident and Jaguars fan Travis Padgett was determined not to miss the second-annual "Double D vs. The Jaguars Fans" Bowling Event on Wednesday. Padgett showed up early at Bowl America on Beach Boulevard and had his shoes laced up and ready to go when host Donovin Darius showed up. "I didn't get a chance to make it last year," Padgett said. "I read about the event on the Jaguars message board and I wasn't going to miss it. It's an exciting time to be able to mingle with a Jaguar player."
Padgett joined numerous other Jaguars' fans on Wednesday as they had the opportunity to interact with Darius and test their bowling skills. The participants had the chance to bowl one game to beat Darius. Winners received prizes provided by Darius that included an authentic No. 20 jersey, autographed footballs and hats.
Darius came up with the idea last year to have several fan interaction events leading up to the season. He is planning on a future event where fans will have the opportunity to work out with him. Darius is known for his rigid offseason workout routine.
"The fan will basically become a coach and take me through drills as I'm participating in a workout of mine," Darius said.
Today was strictly bowling and having fun. Darius greeted all the fans who were dressed in No. 20 jerseys and other Jaguars attire, and he signed autographs throughout the afternoon. Steven Cheshire brought his six-year old son, Jarrett, to enjoy the festivities.
"I have always admired Donovin and the role he plays in the community," Cheshire said. "I wanted to bring Jarrett here. Donovin is the most class act guy in sports. We hope he stays a Jaguar throughout his career."
Darius wishes he would have had the opportunity to spend time with a professional athlete or celebrity when he was growing up in Camden, New Jersey.
"I always try to put myself in the shoes of the other person," Darius said. "This gives them a sense of ownership. As a fan, they can feel like they belong to the team and they know somebody, not just someone they see on television, but up close and personal."
The Jaguars continue to prepare for the start of the 2006 season with training camp beginning on Friday, July 28. Darius is ready to get back on the field after missing 14 games last season with a knee injury. He answered questions from the fans inquiring about his health and the team. His role in the community and leader of the Jaguars is not a role he takes for granted.
"As a player and an organization in the NFL, we are the number one asset," Darius said. "The organization in the public eye goes as far as their assets. If the players are looked upon as being good citizens and good players, then the fan base is broadened even more. If the players are looked at from a negative standpoint, then no matter how well the team does, it will never have that sense of attitude toward the team.
"From the role model standpoint, that is an obligation. The NFL provides a platform for us as players to go out and uplift, encourage and build strength in our community. This is just one of the events and one of the ways I can interact."
While the event was about fun, Darius didn't plan on losing to the hometown crowd.
"Last year, I had about six people beat me," Darius said. "I didn't bowl very well. The good thing about last year is the guy that had the best score had initials of DD. Double D won last year."