JACKSONVILLE – In 2018 offseason jaguars.com series featuring 11 former players talking about 11 current players, former Jaguars Brad Meester talks with senior writer John Oehser about the Jaguars' '17 success, the team's current offensive linemen and the team as it moves forward …
Question: You attended quite a few Jaguars games last season, including all three playoff games. Tell me about that, and what were your impressions of the season?
A: It was a lot of fun. It was great to see them progress during the season and continue to gain confidence and continue to keep playing better. It was awesome. It was always fun playing, but it's always been cool on this side to watch – and we ended up going to each and every one of the playoff games. We went to the [season] opener and we knew we wanted to go to the [regular-]season finale [against the Tennessee Titans] in Nashville. We thought it was basically going to be a playoff game when we planned on going. We were already in [the playoffs], but it was cool to go there, then there was just something about being at home for a playoff game. I never got a chance to play in the playoffs at home; we were always on the road. So, we just had to be there [for the Wild Card Playoff victory over Buffalo] … it was awesome, seeing the fans. We drove to Pittsburgh [for the Divisional Playoff]; it was something we felt we had to go to and just be in that environment, to go to Pittsburgh again like we had in 2007 … to be able to do it again ... Then, we could not miss that AFC Championship Game. It was exciting.
Q: So, you really took it all in as a fan?
A: When we went to the home playoff game against Buffalo, (wife) Jamie and I sat in the North End Zone. People were like, 'Why are you in the North End Zone?" I just bought the tickets. I would sit there again. It was a blast, just being with everybody out there and being part of it as a fan. We loved it, then went to Pittsburgh with a group of friends. I bought the tickets off Ticketmaster, then we found the [Bold City] Brigade and hung out with them. New England was harder, but I got them off eBay and took a chance on them. I was just hoping we would get in. We were able to get it in. We sat in New England in the end zone among the diehard New England fans. It was cool being in that atmosphere. We were getting after them and they were getting after Jamie and I. It was fun being part of that side.
Q: You know you could probably make a few calls and get tickets, right?
A: [Laughing] I know. They (the Jaguars) helped me find tickets for the home game, but it's harder when you go on the road. We ended up finding them on our own, which was just as good. It was kind of cool. We were in the end zone for all the games, and I like that anyway. I'm used to watching it like that. It was cool being among our fans at home, but we were right in the middle of Pittsburgh fans and New England fans. It was cool being a part of the back and forth and it just added to the whole game.
Q:What are your thoughts on the offensive line?
A: I thought they were awesome. Obviously going in [to the '17 season] there were some question marks about the offensive line and things like that, but I thought they did an awesome job. They worked together. They have some great running backs, but those guys (the offensive linemen) created some great holes and got some push for them. They did a great job of protecting [quarterback Blake] Bortles. That's the way offensive line play is. It's not necessarily about having all Pro Bowlers up there, but it's about having a group of guys that work great together and have chemistry and are communicating well together. That creates a great line and they did a great job all season. They were awesome.
Q: You've taken more snaps then any player in Jaguars history at center. What do you think of the current center, Brandon Linder?
A: I think he did great as a center – and moving from guard to center, he did a great job. Center is different than guard in some aspects. Center is a guy the rest of the offensive line relies on – and even a quarterback. They're required to make a lot of calls and you have to be able to read defenses. You have to read blitzes. You have to get everybody in the right direction. People count on you. I think he did a terrific job. It takes a lot to do something like that. He embraced it. He can maul people. He's a great run blocker – and he's a great athlete, too. He can pass block and get out in space. I thought he did a great job this year.
Q:You played more games than any player in franchise history. What's life now, four and a half years into retirement?
A: I get up in the morning and help my wife with the kids, just getting them ready for school. Five of our kids go to school and the youngest is still in preschool. Some days I'll drive her to preschool, then most days I come back to my shop. I went back to school for motorcycle repair. I haven't opened a full-fledged shop, but I have my workshop here. I like to go in and fix bikes. I find old bikes and fix them up and do some custom stuff, too. It's something I love doing. Motorcycles are something I'm passionate about – and fixing things. It's what I'm doing in my spare time. In the afternoon the kids come home. I kind of become an Uber driver, I guess. I'm driving them to practices and different things like that. They usually have something every weekend, so we're running around for that stuff. This year it's going to be a little different for me in the fall. The high school here, Mount Vernon (Iowa), asked me if I wanted to help coach the offensive line. I said, "You know what? I'd love to do that." It's something I wanted to do at some point. It was nice to get away for a little bit, but I'm kind of ready to come back and help coach and teach things that were taught to me. Obviously, there are a lot of life lessons you can learn from football. Football has given me a lot, so it's an opportunity for me to give back to the kids. I'm excited. I can't complain. Retirement's good. I get to work out in the shop, coach some football and go to some Jags games. It all worked out good.
Q: Final thought. What do you think of the Jaguars moving forward?
A: I think they look really good. It's the best defense out there. I thought Blake looked awesome toward the end of the year. He really took control in some tough games there, so it's great to have him back. We're strengthening the line and did some great stuff in free agency. I think there are a lot of positive things going into the season. I can't wait to see how we do. I know the division will be tough again and I know we'll have a tougher schedule, but I think we'll respond well. It should be a great season and I can't wait to see how far we go.