The Jaguars have acquired a taste for Florida defensive ends and first-round draft choice Derrick Harvey is expected to offer the most flavor. What about Jeremy Mincey?
"I can play. I can play football," Mincey said.
Mincey is the middle man in a three-man succession of Gator defensive ends to have played with the Jaguars. First came Bobby McCray, who was replaced at Florida by Mincey, who was replaced in the Gator lineup by Harvey. With the recent addition of Harvey with the eighth pick of this year's draft, all three defensive ends will have played for the Jaguars.
"I was definitely happy for Harvey because that was my buddy in college," Mincey said when asked his reaction to the Jaguars drafting defensive ends with the first two picks of this year's draft. "I didn't see it as a bad thing. I saw it as another chance to compete; raise my bar higher. I know what I can do."
Mincey's quest to make the Jaguars' final roster this year just got a lot tougher, but he says not to count him out because he's overcome greater odds and, after all, he's just starting to come into his football prime.
"I come to work. I don't come to practice to get by. I don't live life to get by," Mincey said.
In Statesboro, Ga., Mincey didn't play high school football until his junior year, and didn't see much playing time then. As a senior, however, he led Statesboro to the state championship.
Two years at Butler County Community College in Kansas saw Mincey win a national title and a scholarship to Florida, where he was a two-year starter. The Patriots then drafted him in the sixth round of the 2006 draft, but as a linebacker, not as a defensive end.
"The coaches loved me," Mincey said of his training camp with the Patriots. "Everything was good in New England, but that was a team for now, not development. I was new at linebacker. They hated to let me go. Bill (Belichick) told me that. I could've easily said I'm done with football, but I'm not a quitter."
The 49ers put Mincey on their practice squad and continued his development as a linebacker.
"They knew how good I was. I was actually getting good at linebacker, then Jacksonville called. It was where I wanted to go in the first place, on draft day. The Jaguars were interested in me from the get-go. I had three visits and that was one of the visits I had," Mincey said.
With the Jaguars, Mincey returned to defensive end.
"Now I'm back in my comfort zone. So I can just make plays. I'm not one of those thinkin' cats," Mincey said.
Coach Jack Del Rio cut him before the start of last season, but Mincey pleaded for an opportunity and got it.
"I came from nothing. I came from the practice squad. When I got cut here, I said put me on the practice squad and I'll work my way up," Mincey told Del Rio.
That's exactly what he did and late last season he began to show what he can do on the field. In the Jaguars' playoff win in Pittsburgh, Mincey had a third-quarter sack of Ben Roethlisberger.
"That was just a flash. I really feel that was a flash of my potential. That was just a piece of what I can bring to the table," Mincey said.
A classic over-achiever, Mincey returned to Florida and got his degree. With the $20,000 performance check he got from the league, he threw a barbecue for his hometown and 4,000 people showed up. So did teammates Mike Peterson and Drayton Florence.
Mincey is one of those feel-good stories. He's a young man with an effervescent personality who won't take no for an answer, and even though the deck would seem to be stacked against him, don't count him out.
"I play hard. That's all I can do. I can't control what they do. I feel I'm as good as any defensive end in the league. I just have to compete," he said.
Making the team will be difficult. Harvey is a premier every-downs defensive end. Second-round pick Quentin Groves is a pass-rush whiz.
"The difference is I can play the run. I take pride in playing the run. That's what helped me make this Jaguars football team. I'm not just a pass-rusher. I'm a football player. I can play the pass and the run," he said.
Soon, the competition will begin.