Todd Fordham continues to be teased for his frightened moans and groans when he blew out his knee in August of 1999, during a Jaguars-Falcons combined practice session at Furman University.
"Squealed like a pig," tight end Damon Jones teased as Fordham sat with a reporter in the Jaguars locker room. Fordham just smiled sheepishly. He can't deny his fright when a Falcons defensive lineman collapsed his knee.
"You've seen people who've had a knee injury and never came back. You wonder what the damage is. Not knowing is the scariest part," Fordham said.
Now, he's back; not all the way back, but back in the lineup. Sunday, Fordham will step in at right tackle for Zach Wiegert, who was lost for the season last Sunday when Wiegert suffered a torn ACL while pass-blocking against the Redskins' Marco Coleman.
"I'm pretty close. It's not completely normal, yet, but it's getting back to being the strength I need it to be," Fordham said.
Fordham is a classic example of the type of player who will benefit the most from the Jaguars' bulging injury list. The rest of the season, if his knee holds out, will be Fordham's opportunity to prove he belongs in this league, and in the Jaguars' plans for the future. Sunday, he'll be blocking against Cowboys defensive end Alonzo Spellman.
"It's definitely a great opportunity to prove I can play in this league. We're running out of Indians here. It's time to step up. That's what my coaches expect, that's what my teammates expect, and that's what I expect to do," Fordham said.
Wide receiver Jimmy Smith was in a similar position at midseason in 1995. Smith was just about to make his move as a pass-catcher, after a career that had been labeled a flop in Dallas and in Philadelphia.
"I knew I should've been playing. It was just a matter of me being on the field and getting experience," Smith said of '95.
"We've got a lot of good guys. It's just a matter of them getting on the field and building their confidence. That's what was wrong with me. I lacked confidence from what happened in Dallas and Philly. I didn't believe I belonged in the NFL. This is a chance for Todd Fordham to springboard his career," Smith said.
It's also an opportunity for the Jaguars to find players around whom they may rebuild their roster next season.