For Ryan Gibbons and Pete McMahon, two Jaguars offensive linemen, the opportunity to show Jacksonville their worth has been presented in a place far away from home while playing in NFL Europa. After their first start together – at the right and left guard positions, respectively – on the offensive line of the Hamburg Sea Devils during week six of NFL Europa action, both feel this could be a taste of things to come in their young and developing careers.
While Gibbons made his first start of the season at right guard for Hamburg last week, McMahon has been the starter at left guard since week one and has been a consistent force in helping the Sea Devils offense. The unit currently ranks as the third-best offense overall and second-best pass offense in the league while also allowing the fewest sacks (eight) among all NFLE teams, including no sack allowed in the past three games.
Gibbons, who signed with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent in 2006 and spent the year on the practice squad, is using this NFLE season as a building block for his NFL dreams. However, he admits that this experience has turned out to be more than what he originally expected.
"I was a little hesitant and I wasn't too excited at first, to be honest," said Gibbons. "But once I was in Tampa, and when I got here, it turned into a great experience as I've met a lot of nice people. I love it over here. It's a nice country that is very different from the U.S., but I like it and there is a lot of history over here."
Upon making the short trek to Tampa for NFLE training camp in March and going through the process of meeting his new teammates for the upcoming season, Gibbons knew that he'd have some familiarity with at least one of his soon-to-be Sea Devils teammates who also happens to be a fellow Jaguar.
"It was good to know that Pete was on my team because he's the same type of person I am and we both play the same position," said Gibbons. "I only knew him for three weeks in Jacksonville, but it helps to have somebody like that here and to know that I'm going to be in training camp back in Jacksonville with someone that I've gotten to know here. It's something that I'm looking forward to and it should be fun."
McMahon agrees that it has been beneficial getting to know his NFL teammate overseas.
"That helped out a lot coming here because I had been with him for a few weeks in Jacksonville, and coming in here not knowing anybody, you have someone to hang out with. And that made me real happy when I got drafted here," said McMahon. "It's been good because I've gotten to know him better and it will be nice to go back to Jacksonville with him because I only knew him for three weeks before and now I have a guy to room with and hang out with when we get back."
Considered to have tremendous upside, McMahon was signed by the Jaguars late in 2006 where he spent the remainder of the season on the team's practice squad along with Gibbons. After re-signing with the team for 2007 and upon his assignment to NFL Europa, McMahon is quickly establishing himself as one of the league's top offensive linemen.
"NFL Europa has been kind of what I expected, but it hasn't been as hard on my body as I thought. I was a little worried about being banged up for Jacksonville when I went back for camp, but my body has been holding up well," said McMahon. "Also, the level of football is probably higher than I thought it would be. The defensive linemen we've been going against are NFL-caliber guys, so that's good because the better the guys I go against the better it's going to make me. I came in with an open attitude and I wanted to take advantage of everything football-wise and experience-wise, and I feel like I've done that."
Both players are making considerable progress throughout the season with the Sea Devils as they have helped the team achieve a 3-3 record. With four games remaining, the goal of the individuals has noticeably grown into the goal of the team – earning a spot in World Bowl XV.
"With the guys that I've been with here in Hamburg, we all really didn't know anybody in the beginning, and we've grown together since then," said McMahon. "We're all in the same position, too, as we're all trying to be on teams and be starters in the NFL. We've especially grown together in the O-line where we've become a pretty tight group."
His Jaguars and Sea Devils teammate couldn't agree more.
"When you're with these guys for nine or 10 weeks you build some camaraderie and you start playing as a team," said Gibbons. "If you play selfishly, you're not going to play well and the team's not going to do well, so you've got to work as a unit. Hopefully we'll get to that World Bowl."