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Julius Thomas: Ready for the challenge


JACKSONVILLE – He signed, and it was finally official.

And if there are suddenly very real expectations that come with that officially happening, Julius Thomas said he's OK with that.

The opportunity is at hand.

And Thomas said he's very ready for the opportunity.

"I know how young this team is, and I need to be a leadership presence and a veteran," Thomas said Wednesday. "To come in here and help these young guys out is exciting for me."

Thomas, formerly a tight end with the Denver Broncos and widely considered one of the top available players in the NFL's 2015 free-agent class, signed with the Jaguars Wednesday morning. He will appear at the team's introductory media availability at EverBank Field later Wednesday.

But speaking at EverBank shortly after officially signing Wednesday, Thomas said he while he wasn't thinking much about the pressure of being a high-profile free agent he was ready for what awaits.

"People think you're going to a different team and a different city, but for me, my entire situation has changed," Thomas said. "I was fortunate to play with some of the best players this league has seen, future Hall of Famers like (defensive end) Demarcus Ware, (quarterback) Peyton Manning, (cornerback) Champ Bailey and (safety) Brian Dawkins. They had accumulation of knowledge and advice they gave me, and I get a chance to help share that with other people."

Thomas (6-feet-5, 250 pounds), selected by Denver from Portland State in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, played in just nine games in his first two NFL seasons. Since then, he emerged as one of the league's top receiving tight ends.

After catching just one pass in his first two seasons, he caught 108 passes over the past two seasons for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns. He started 24 games over the past two seasons.

He has 12 touchdowns each of the past two seasons, being named to the Pro Bowl each season. He also has three career 100-yard receiving games, with six multiple touchdown games.

And while Thomas said he learned playing with Manning the past two seasons he also said he's ready to show he can succeed without him.

"Peyton does deserve his credit," Thomas said. "He's taught me a lot about football. He helped me see the game in a more cerebral sense, and for that I'm truly grateful for him. I'm also very confident I'll  be able to make big plays here with (quarterback) Blake (Bortles). Sometimes you have to step out of someone else's shadow and step out on your own. I'm excited and I'm looking forward to it."

Thomas also said he looks forward to playing with Bortles, who started 13 games last season after being selected No. 3 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.

"I did a little of my research, and I've heard good things about him," Thomas said. "That's the exciting part of me, is to have the opportunity to grow with a young quarterback who is emerging in this league. I look to having a good relationship with him so our communication is good on the field."

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