JACKSONVILLE – He earned this moment, which earned respect.
That was important to Elijah Cooks, but what really mattered this week to the rookie wide receiver was something more basic – and something pretty cool, too.
He's on an NFL regular-season roster. For real.
"It was just like a big blessing," Cooks said.
Cooks, who signed with the Jaguars as a collegiate free agent from San Jose State following the 2023 NFL Draft, was the lone undrafted rookie to make the team's initial 53-man 2023 regular-season roster. That became official late Tuesday.
Cooks not only made the roster, he made it at perhaps the team's deepest position – a wide receiver group that not only features veterans such as Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk and Zay Jones but also featured a deep group of young players fighting for sixth- and seventh positions throughout '23 training camp and preseason.
"My hat goes off to him," Jones said of Cooks Tuesday. "He's a really good talent. He's a phenomenal football player. The thing that stands out the most to me about him is the confidence that he exudes. He's not scared of the moment."
Jones added, "If he is nervous, he doesn't show it. I don't think the pressure really phases him. That's unique to have as a rookie. It's something I definitely didn't have and I admire in him. I make sure not to be one of those guys who doesn't show him any love. He has earned it.
"He's a natural playmaker and I'm excited to see his growth and development."
Cooks, a physical receiver who stood out during training camp and preseason, said he was ecstatic Tuesday upon learning the news. His family shared the emotion.
"I told my parents, and my parents were crying," he said with a smile following Tuesday afternoon's practice at the Miller Electric Center. "It's something I dreamed of my whole life. I know I had to go through one of the hardest ways to do it, but I did it.
"The work just started, honestly. I'm ready to get to work now."
Cooks competed during camp and preseason for "bottom-of-the-roster" receiver positions with players such as Kevin Austin Jr., Jacob Harris, Seth Williams and Kendric Pryor. All ether had been on NFL rosters or practice squads. He said he was unsure of his status until he arrived at the MEC Tuesday.
"I kind of just walked in [Tuesday] morning and guys were letting me know, like saying congratulations to me and stuff," he said. "I'm just like, 'That must mean I made it, you feel me?' Then, they just let me know, because I really didn't understand how everything worked.
“I just felt blessed. I called my parents and they were just so excited to hear from me. This has been a dream of mine since I was six years old. Now, I finally accomplished it.”
Cooks (6-feet-4, 215 pounds), who played four seasons at Nevada before playing a final season at San Jose State, was an All-Mountain West Conference selection in 2022 when he caught 69 passes for 1,079 yards and 10 touchdowns.
When he went undrafted, he said he wanted to sign with the Jaguars despite a deep receiving group that includes Jones, Ridley, Kir, Jamal Agnew and fifth-round rookie Parker Washington.
"I knew coming in this receiving core was great," he said. "That's really one of the reasons why I wanted to come here, was learning from these guys. I knew I was a rookie. I knew I'd have to come in and learn from some guys and learning from these guys has been great.
"They've helped me in every aspect of my game. Watching them every day really has been a blessing. Those guys are helpful every single day on the field and off the field."
And make no mistake: While Cooks achieved something special Tuesday, he knows that day is just the first official day of his NFL career.
"I always had the mentality of, 'I want to play on this team, I want to be on this team,''' he said. "I wanted to make the team. I didn't want to go all this way to just be on a practice squad or like it was me not doing anything.
"I wanted to be on the 53-man contribute to wins. That has been my goal and now it's just getting started. Now, I'm here to help to go win the Super Bowl."