JACKSONVILLE – Whatever you call him, call this a big deal.
Andrew Wingard – he of many nicknames – knows it, and the second-year safety knows the importance of taking advantage of it.
"It's a great opportunity," he said Friday.
Wingard, who entered the 2020 season as the Jaguars' third safety, enters Week 2 as the starting free safety alongside Josh Jones. He will replace Jarrod Wilson, who played every Jaguars defensive play last season before sustaining a hamstring injury in a Week 1 victory over Indianapolis.
Yes, it's a significantly bigger role.
And it's one for which Head Coach Doug Marrone said Wingard is ready.
"He's always been a student of the game," Marrone said Friday as the Jaguars (1-0) prepared to play the Tennessee Titans (1-0) in a Week 2 AFC South game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday at 1 p.m.
"We always felt that he had good speed. He has really shown us over the course of last season and even the first game of how well he does in space – as far as special teams play. Now, he has an opportunity to go in there and see what he has. He's on the field, so I have total confidence in him.
"I'm excited for him. It's a great opportunity."
Wingard and Marrone both spoke to the media via videoconference Friday. Not unexpectedly the topic around Wingard was as much about monikers as making plays. The backup-turned-starter has perhaps the most nicknames of any Jaguars player.
Wingard said Friday he loses count of his nicknames sometimes and Marrone recalled initially calling Wingard "Tiny Thor" because of his long, blonde hair.
"He's got a ton of nicknames, and I can't keep up with all that stuff," Marrone said, with Wingard adding: "Every day I've got to turn around the corner and I'm getting called something different. I'm kind of all over the place.
"No one ever calls me by my first name," he said. "Only my mom calls me, 'Andrew' – if she's, like, mad at me or something."
Wingard said he has been called "Sunshine" from the movie, Remember the Titans, and said he is typically called "Dewey" by family and friends – a name that stemmed from a young neighbor in Texas when he was growing up being unable to pronounce "Drew." Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash coined the nickname "Kid Rock," a moniker Wingard admitted on Friday he perhaps doesn't love.
"I went and looked at a couple of Kid Rock pictures," he said, laughing. "He's not the best-looking guy. I'll say that. He's got some great songs. Does my hair look like that? It's kind of greasy and stuff, but no … it's cool. I rock with all of it.
"If people are talking about you … there's no such thing as bad publicity, so I'll take it."
Wingard is about more than nicknames. He signed with the Jaguars as a collegiate free agent from Wyoming following the 2019 NFL Draft. In a little more than a season, he has emerged as one of the team's top special teams players and a leader on that unit.
He replaced Jones at strong safety briefly in the second half against Indianapolis, then shortly thereafter replaced Wilson and immediately intercepted Colts quarterback Philip Rivers – a play that led to a fourth-quarter field goal and helped secure an upset victory.
"I pride myself on being one of the smartest guys in this building – and maybe even in the NFL," he said. "I think I can go out and get it done. I'm going to be ready to go regardless."
And he absolutely feels that way about Sunday's opportunity.
"It's something that I've worked toward and a culmination of my body of work," he said. "I come into work every day. I know my role and I'm ready to go, whether it's playing special teams and being able to come on the field in relief – or, like it is now, starting and being able to execute and play a good football game."
Also on Friday:
*The Jaguars announced that rookie tight end Tyler Davis will miss a second consecutive game with a knee injury; he missed practice all three days this week. All other injured players were removed from the injury report and are expected to be available Sunday. …