This is the chance of Matt Hatchette's professional football life. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, Hatchette is likely to have the opportunity to resurrect his career with a starting assignment on opening day.
"I think the sky's the limit for me. I set my goals high. I don't want to just be in the NFL. My goals are really high," Hatchette said.
In practice this morning, Hatchette twice made deep-ball catches of Mark Brunell passes. On the second one, Hatchette beat cornerback Jason Craft and safety James Trapp down the left sideline, pulling in the pass over his shoulder and just beyond Craft and Trapp.
"Number 11 has found a way to hook up with Mark," coach Jack Del Rio observed.
Yeah, the guy with the number that belongs to quarterbacks and long-shot wide receivers is making his presence felt in the late stages of this training camp, and that's especially good news for a team that has just lost its star wide receiver to a four-game drug suspension.
So, what's the chance the Jaguars have found a starter-quality wide receiver from the NFL scrap heap? Is there any chance that's happened?
Here are the facts; judge for yourself.
Hatchette made the Vikings roster as a seventh-round pick out of Langston College in 1997 and played for the Vikings for the next four years. Of course, that was at a time when the Vikings offense included Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Robert Smith. Hatchette was an afterthought.
He moved onto the Jets as an unrestricted free agent in 2001, but suffered through a disappointing season that resulted in his release.
Next was a move to Oakland, but Hatchette's chances there suffered a major blow in training camp when he sustained a shoulder sprain that limited his practice and preseason game time. He was released and spent the rest of last season waiting for a team to call.
To Hatchette's disadvantage, his former receivers coach in Minnesota, Chip Meyers, had passed away, and Hatchette's former head coach, Denny Green, was working as a sportscaster. Hatchette was out of football and out of contacts who might bring him back into the league.
"It was a what-am-I-going-to-do type of thing? I thought I was too good not to play any more, so I went to NFL Europe to prove I could play and still wanted to play," Hatchette said.
He did a lot more than that. Hatchette led the Europe League in all receiving categories, which led the Jaguars to sign Hatchette to a contract in late June.
Now, he's trying to capitalize on that one more chance to play he so desperately wanted. In this case, it's a chance to do more than play; it's a chance to be the starter on opening day at the Jaguars' premier wide receiver position.
In other news from practice this morning, defensive end Tony Brackens was in pads for the second consecutive day, though his participation remains limited. Running back Fred Taylor remains sidelined by the bone bruise in his left knee, though Del Rio said Taylor will probably begin practicing later this week.
Running back Elvis Joseph is still unable to practice due to a hamstring pull that has caused Joseph to miss all but the first few days of training camp. When asked if Joseph's chances of making the team have been hurt by the hamstring pull, Del Rio said: "Yes."