Since a lot of us are just meeting, or at the least getting reacquainted, we&39;ll start with a quick introduction.
I&39;m John Oehser, new jaguars.com Senior Writer.
Sounds odd in a way to hear that – my name in front of that title. To you, the loyal jaguars.com reader, it doubtless sounds odd because a new name and a new voice is replacing a familiar old name who was more than a voice.
My predecessor, to many of you, was in fact much more than that.
He was a teacher, a daily source of information, a daily reason to smile, a daily must-read. To many of you, if he wasn&39;t a friend, he felt like he was. Those things are impressive, difficult things for a sportswriter to be, and my predecessor did them perhaps as well as any writer in the NFL.
I&39;ve been told more than once since accepting the position I have big shoes to fill.
I assure you I know this is true.
But back to that thing about it sounding odd, hearing my name in front of jaguars.com Senior Writer.
It does sound odd to me, too, and yet, at the same time it doesn&39;t.
Because in a very real sense, it sounds very, very right.
We&39;ll get to that in a minute . . .
(QUICK ASIDE I: Before we go on, let me say I&39;m not a big introductory column guy. Not because of pressure or a lack of ideas or anything like that, but because it&39;s sort of like a television pilot, where you have to get all of the introductory stuff in to give people the background, but still make it interesting enough for people to come back. Still, because this is the first one . . .
First, the professional stuff . . .
Because this column is indeed introductory, we&39;ll talk a bit about my approach to jaguars.com. The reality is this is as good a site as there is in the NFL. The team is committed to it, starting with Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver. When it comes to the Web and to reaching out to fans, he gets it. His commitment is a big reason I&39;m excited about this opportunity. As I get more comfortable on the job, I&39;m sure we&39;ll keep doing many, many of the things on jaguars.com that work, and we&39;ll move in some new directions, directions that make sense, too. I want to bring you closer to the players and coaches, and help you understand why things are happening on and off the field. The objective won&39;t change. We want to be your best, first source of Jaguars news, and make jaguars.com a compelling, more-than-daily part of your day.
A couple of obvious questions:
Question: Will you have a mailbag?
A: Yes. Some things you don&39;t mess with.
Q:What will it be called?
A: To be determined. But thanks for your ideas.
Q: When will it start?
A: Soon. Very soon.
Q: Will you try to copy your predecessor?
A: I hope not. One of the silliest things you can do is try to be something you&39;re not. My hope is you come to enjoy my work on jaguars.com in a way that – while different from my predecessor – is entertaining and informative at the same time.
Q: Are you as funny as your predecessor?
A: To be determined, but I may be able to beat him in a very short, downhill footrace.
(QUICK ASIDE II: The problem with introductory columns – and pilots – is getting in all the background. It slows the story down. Still, it&39;s necessary, so . . .)
Now, quickly, the background . . .
I wasn&39;t born in Jacksonville, but I went to St. Andrew&39;s Episcopal Day School in Arlington, and spent six of my favorite years at Episcopal High School. Went to the University of Florida, and started working at the Florida Times-Union six months out of college.
Covered high schools and UF for the T-U, then covered the Jaguars&39; first six seasons with Pete Prisco. Saw Morten Andersen&39;s miss. Saw Tony Boselli dominate Bruce Smith in Buffalo. Saw Mark Brunell baffle Denver. Saw Fred Taylor run around, through and past Pittsburgh that night in Three Rivers.
Saw Jimmy Smith when he was the best receiver no one heard of. Saw Keenan McCardell when he was pretty much the same. Talked to Kevin Hardy on the sunny banks of the St. John&39;s the morning after he was drafted, when he was a wide-eyed kid with his future in front of him. Talked to Jeff Lageman the day his career ended, and never forgot how he asked me not to write the story as if it was a sad day, because it wasn&39;t. He&39;d gotten an opportunity not a lot of people got. He knew it, and was ready to move on.
Yes, I think Tony Boselli is a Hall of Famer.
I think, too, that Fred Taylor&39;s 2000 season – the streak of nine consecutive 100-yard rushing games – is one of the great forgotten performances in recent NFL history.
Moved on to Indianapolis. Covered the Colts for the past decade, and because that&39;s going to be a touchy topic for many of you, we&39;ll get a few more obvious questions out of the way.
Q: Ugh. The Colts? Really?
A: What&39;s your question?
Q: Will you talk about the Colts a lot while writing about the Jaguars?
A: I suppose I&39;ll talk about the Colts or any other team when appropriate to answer a question, or provide insight. I covered the Colts for 10 years and worked inside their building for eight years. As a writer for jaguars.com, I hope to be transparent and truthful with what I write, and while providing whatever insight I almost certainly will at times draw on my experiences in Indianapolis. Will I drive it down your throats that I used to cover the Colts? No.
Q: Never mind the Colts. What&39;s your most vivid memory covering the Jaguars?
A: It would be easy to say standing under the goal post when Morten Andersen missed the field goal, but what I remember most about the &39;96 season came a few weeks later. Prisco, then T-U columnist Mike Bianchi and myself were in a hotel restaurant hours after the upset victory over Denver. We were watching SportsCenter and a huge part of the broadcast was about the Jaguars. More than ever before, the Jaguars were a national story and there was a real sense that the team was a factor in the NFL for the first time.
Q: Your name? How do you pronounce it?
A: Technically, "Oh-zhur," but if you say, "Oh-shur," I&39;ll answer to that, too. I&39;ll also answer to "John," "Oehs," the occasional "JohnnyO" and, of course, "Pepe."(I answer to "Doc," too, but only to the unfortunate few who witnessed me on Episcopal&39;s early &39;80s hardwoods.)
Q: And "O-E-H-S-E-R"-- that&39;s really how you spell it?
A: Yes, I had an elementary school teacher who told me it was spelled "O-E-S-H-E-R" and got angry when I corrected her. I also had an English teacher in my junior year of high school tell my parents I had no writing skills. Who knows? Maybe they were both right.
Q: What are some things you miss about Jacksonville?
A: The Loop. Krystal (they have White Castle in Indianapolis; it&39;s not the same). Ragtime. Pete&39;s Bar. Thursday nights at European Street. Driving across the Main Street Bridge at night. My son&39;s brick on the circle in San Marco. And yes, even daily thunderstorms on late summer afternoons.
Q: What&39;s the thing you miss MOST about Jacksonville?
A: Gene Frenette&39;s columns.
Q: Speaking of columns, is this one ever going to end?
A: Point taken.
(QUICK ASIDE III: Yes, a third aside: I&39;m not big on writing in the first person, either. jaguars.com isn&39;t about the Senior Writer, it&39;s about the players, the coaches, the team and the fans, and as soon as we get through Self Indulgent Day One, I assure you that will be the focus . . .)
OK, we&39;re to it now . . .
Yes, as I said, it&39;s odd hearing my name where my predecessor&39;s used to be, but it&39;s just as true that to me, it couldn&39;t feel more right. It feels right in the way that coming home feels right.
Because that&39;s what the Jaguars have given me the chance to do.
Not that I always knew I&39;d get back to Jacksonville, much less write for jaguars.com. You can&39;t predict the future – not tomorrow, much less 10 years down the road. But my predecessor always believed I&39;d replace him, and I suppose somewhere, I always thought that was a possibility, maybe even hoped it would happen.
Now that it is happening, know this:
I couldn&39;t be more excited.
And not just because of Krystal and the Loop. I know enough about the town and the people running this team and the fans of this team to be excited about the seasons that lie ahead. I can&39;t wait to see what happens next.
When announcing I had taken the jaguars.com Senior Writer job, I tweeted that the lure of home is hard to ignore, and as I write this, I think again how true that is.
I met my wife, Cheri, in Jacksonville. We were married there. I lived there nearly 30 years. My son, Jacob, was born there – nearly 15 years ago. It is, in the realest sense of the word, home, and with your new jaguars.com Senior Writer, you&39;re getting a guy with an appreciation for the town and a love of it, too. You can&39;t predict the future, but if this is our last move, we won&39;t be disappointed.
And finally, with self-indulgence out of the way, let me say this. I won&39;t insult loyal readers of this site by pretending to know more about their team in the early weeks than they do. Much of my first days, weeks and months will be about me learning the intricacies and subtleties of the franchise.
I&39;m looking forward to getting to know Gene Smith and Jack Del Rio and Maurice Jones-Drew. And Marcedes Lewis, Tyson Alualu and David Garrard. And Aaron Kampman and Rashean Mathis and Eugene Monroe. There are a lot of quality veterans and a lot of solid young players there, and a whole lot of others, too. There are names I left out, because there are things I don&39;t know, and the learning is a fascinating process. Bear with me, and do more than that: come along for the ride, and hopefully, as I learn, you can, too.
Q: Seriously, at some point can we wrap this up?
A: Will do.
(QUICK ASIDE IV: Last one. Really.)
Finally, we close . . .
Someone suggested to me that this first column should be spent looking forward and not looking back, that I might be best served to not mention my predecessor.
I agree with looking ahead, but in this case, looking back is appropriate, too.
Because the reality is jaguars.com and Jaguars fans owe a great deal to him, and because I consider him a friend, it&39;s only fair to pay homage and kick off a new era with a tribute to an old friend. We&39;ll do so the only way appropriate, with a pseudo mailbag. It won&39;t be "Ask Vic," but maybe it will make a few of you – and him – smile.
Question: What do you really think of Vic Ketchman?
Answer: Who&39;s &39;Rick Ketchman?&39;
Q: C&39;mon . . .
A: Seriously, I&39;ve known Vic since 1995 and consider him one of my closest friends in the business. We have watched Christmas Vacation together, just as we have many, many NFL games together, too. We have debated. I have learned, and maybe once in a while, he has, too. I do not agree with everything he believes about football, just as I agree with him about many things about football.
Q: Do you believe running and playing great defense are the only way to win in the NFL?
A: Absolutely not.
Q: Do you believe a team must build through the draft to win?
Q: What do you like best about Vic?
A: His rosy, child-like, optimistic outlook on life.
Q: Why did you call him your predecessor throughout the column? Is it because you wanted to use that trite &39;Rick Ketchman&39; joke at the end?
Q: That didn&39;t work out so well, did it?
A: Move on.
Q: Is Christmas Vacation your favorite movie?
A: It&39;s not everyone&39;s?