It's official: He's 'The Man'

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On the day he was drafted, he talked about becoming the Jaguars' starting quarterback. David Garrard had to wait six years and back up two quarterbacks in the process, but it finally happened.

"What you see is a young man who persevered," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said, as Garrard sat in front of reporters at a press conference on Monday afternoon that presented him as the Jaguars' quarterback for the next seven years.

Garrard signed a contract extension that will take him through the 2014 season and is, by far, according to team owner Wayne Weaver, "the biggest contract of any Jaguars player, and David has earned this," Weaver said.

The final must-do of the offseason is done. Del Rio and Garrard each have new long-term contracts, the team spent $26 million in free agency, and now the Jaguars are poised for a draft it hopes will solidify its position as a Super Bowl contender.

Are they?

"I definitely think we can compete with anybody," Garrard said. "This is a great time for us. I really do believe we can do some great things here."

Garrard did great things last year and his new contract rewards him for those deeds, but no one saw them coming; maybe not even Garrard.

The low points in his five years were many. There was draft day 2003, when the Jaguars ignored Garrard and made Byron Leftwich their quarterback of the future. There was a serious bout with Crohn's Disease that threatened more than just Garrard's football career. There was a meltdown in Tennessee that cost the Jaguars a playoff spot in 2006 and, ultimately, the starting job Garrard appeared to have won. Finally, there was Leftwich's reinstatement in February of '07.

Through it all, Garrard remained strong. He never lost confidence in himself or faith that he would one day become a starting quarterback in the NFL. When that day came, in a shocking press conference announcement nine days before last season began, Garrard was ready for the challenge.

"This time last year, I was just trying to figure out what was in store for me. The important thing for me was to stay positive and know my time would come again," Garrard said.

The lowest point?

"Being pulled out of the Kansas City game," Garrard said of the 2006 season finale. "After I stopped sulking about the last few games and started to think about the good things I did, I said, 'You know what? You can do this.' I started reflecting on more positive things."

Early in training camp last summer, the light went on. The transformation was distinct and Garrard began making his move on the starting job.

"I stopped trying to do things on my own. I stopped using my athleticism to get me through everything. I started listening to my coaches. If those first two guys aren't open, I have a third guy," Garrard said of his rapid ascent to the starting job.

On Friday, Aug. 31, Del Rio made it official. Garrard was "The Man." At Monday's press conference, the Jaguars made Garrard "The Man" for a long time.

"It was time to make everybody happy," Garrard said of his decision to end negotiations and sign the deal.

He talked about being "Crohn's-free with no symptoms," and of having the durability and body type to finish out his contract. Garrard recently turned 30, so he would be 37 at the end of his new deal.

"We all admire David because David always had that confidence that his day would come and today it has," Weaver said. "It's the most important position on the team and to have the stability there puts us in position to win a championship."

Personnel boss James Harris was also on hand at the press conference. "We felt he had shown signs earlier," Harris said.

Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter was a proud spectator. Koetter took the job last winter with the charge of fixing Leftwich. Along the way, Koetter fixed Garrard, which included having eliminated a small hop in Garrard's throwing motion that may have caused Garrard problems late in the '06 season.

"I thought he was good. He had such good mechanics. You could see that on film. Every quarterback has something to work on. We didn't fix anything that he didn't want to fix," Koetter said.

Garrard's wife Mary and the couple's son, Justin, were present at the press conference. Justin was born during Garrard's early season rush to the top of the passer rankings last year.

"We believe his best football is still in front of him," Del Rio said.

"He's got a lot of upside," Koetter added.

"To know I am the guy and work toward that, I think it's going to make me a better quarterback," Garrard said.

Finally, the Jaguars have a quarterback on whom all would seem to agree: He's "The Man."

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