He was always a journeyman; bouncing from team to team looking for a place where he might stick on the roster. Paul Spicer's career wasn't about signing bonuses or expectations, until this offseason.
Now, he's a millionaire; signed a four-year contract this past winter. Included in the deal is a $1 million signing bonus. Wow! You go, Spice.
"I'm too realistic for that," Spicer shot back.
And he's right. He's one guy you don't have to worry about taking the money and run. Spicer's about high energy. Spicer's about total dedication. Spicer's train never arrives.
"The next step is to show I'm worth that money and more. You don't want to get that money and be a flop. I haven't arrived at anything. I want to win the Super Bowl. That's when you arrive," the Jaguars defensive end said.
OK, the train that is his career may not have pulled into the station, but it sure is a long way from the derailments of his past. The same guy who brushes aside the seven-figure signing bonus he pocketed this past winter, last got a signing bonus in 1998 when he signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent. He got $7,000.
Cut by Seattle and Detroit before sticking with the Jaguars in 2000, Spicer's team-guy attitude was a perfect fit for a team in the midst of salary cap repair and roster reconstruction. Along the way, he proved to be a dependable backup, and this year he may have to be a whole lot more.
The Jaguars have a desperate need at defensive end, and Spicer is trying to be the answer at one of those two positions; at the left side, right now. This is his chance to become a full-time starter in the NFL.
"I want double-digit sacks. I put myself in a martial arts class; learning to get guys' hands off me," Spicer said.
"It's a slap in the face," he added of the constant media suggestion the Jaguars are weak at defensive end, "but it's a needed slap. They're talking to me. That's how I take it. I have to prove them wrong. I have to take that upon myself."
The Jaguars may be close to signing Tony Brackens to a contract. Brackens was the Jaguars' starting left defensive end last year, but was cut this past winter in a salary-cap-motivated move.
"Continuing to talk to Tony and his agent, and continue to be optimistic. I'm hoping there'll be something to report on that front," head coach Jack Del Rio said following this morning's practice.
Del Rio also said it's important the two sides reach an agreement soon.
"One of the main focuses is to build a (sense of) team. I think it's important that if he's going to join us, he do so rather quickly," Del Rio said of Brackens.
If that happens, Brackens might step back in as the starter at left end, but Brackens would be a nine-year veteran with a chronic knee problem, and his return to the team would not lessen Spicer's importance. This team needs Spicer to play the best football of his life, and Spicer says that's exactly what he's prepared to do.
"I'm listening to myself and not all of the nay-sayers," he said. "If you come in here and you're not about achieving something great, we don't need you. I don't care who you are.
"With this team, if it picks up where it left off, understands what Jack wants, we're going to be hard to beat. If you doubt us, we'll beat you," Spicer added.
Clearly, that nice-fat signing bonus didn't blunt his ambitions. Spicer is still the same edgy guy who caught Tom Coughlin's eye with a hair-on-fire performance against Dallas in 2000, when the Jaguars had a desperate need at defensive end and Spicer was somebody the team signed in a pinch.
"We got guys who are hungry, want to make it to the playoffs, want to make it to the Super Bowl," Spicer said.
Clearly, he's one of those guys. He's old school; all team all of the time.
"I'm a conservative spender," he added, claiming to have used his signing bonus to buy a house for him, his wife, their two daughters and one son. It's the first house he's owned in his five seasons with the Jaguars.
"I don't have a lot of jewelry. I don't have any earrings. Growing up, I was taught earrings are for women," Spicer said.
Sometimes, pass-rushers wear earrings, too, but not this pass-rusher. This pass-rusher's too realistic for that.