JACKSONVILLE – The coaching was a huge, huge appeal.
Mohamed Massaquoi says that first – a chance to work with Jerry Sullivan and Gus Bradley played a huge role in his recent decision to join the Jaguars.
But there was another factor, too:
The newness around EverBank Field these days – new general manager, new head coach, new offensive coordinator, and new offense – was particularly appealing to the fourth-year veteran wide receiver.
He very much liked the idea of a fresh start.
And he very much believes he may have found it.
"I guess I just want to rewrite the script," Massaquoi said late Monday afternoon shortly after officially signing with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent. "I want to see where my game can go."
Through his first four NFL seasons, Massaquoi said his game didn't always go where he wanted.
The Browns drafted him in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft from the University of Georgia, and in four seasons, he started 43 games with 118 receptions for 1,745 yards and seven touchdowns. He showed flashes in that time, twice registering 100-yard receiving games, but he also missed parts of the last three seasons with concussions.
The time with the Browns, he said, "was what it was," and he said he remains confident that his best football in the NFL is ahead of him.
"I'm relatively young," he said. "Things didn't go as well as I would have liked in Cleveland. When you get another opportunity, you have to make the most of it."
That, he said, is what made prompted him to sign with Jacksonville. He said he liked immediately the energy of Bradley, hired in January as the team's head coach. And he very much liked Bradley's philosophy of real, daily, open competition. Jacksonville, Massaquoi said is a chance to get in at the start of something, and to perhaps play in a consistent system.
It's also a chance to play for one of the NFL's most-respected wide receivers coaches.
Sullivan, entering his second season as the Jaguars' receivers coach, has been credited with helping Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon develop into productive players last season in their first seasons as starters. Massaquoi spent time with the 20-year coaching veteran at Larry Fitzgerald's offseason workouts for receivers in Minnesota, and said he welcomed the chance to play for Sullivan.
"He's a coach," Massaquoi said. "A motivating factor is getting better. He's a guy, just being able to work alongside him – his ability to take raw talent and refine it – was very, very appealing to me."
Massaquoi, speaking Monday afternoon after signing that morning, said the time in between largely was spent with Sullivan.
"He's on the horn, on the board, bringing up clips from 1990 . . ." Massaquoi said. "He just has that passion for coaching. He has that passion for seeing people do well."
Massaquoi, too, said he hopes to bring a teaching element of his own. In Cleveland, he was never surrounded by veteran receivers, and he said if all goes well he hopes to play that role with the Jaguars' young receivers. At the same time, he said he knows he must earn a chance to be a part of the wide receiver corps moving forward and to be part of an organization looking to build into a long-term contender.
"Maybe when people look at the Jaguars they maybe don't view it as a franchise that's where it wants to be," Massaquoi said. "They were 2-14, so it is what it is. But I think everybody here wants to grow and get better. The memory I have of the Jaguars is when Mark Brunell played, and Fred Taylor. The receivers were Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith.
"So, my recollection of the Jaguars is a good one. I liked the team because they had the NIKE and the colors were cool. I don't know the bad side of the Jaguars. I can only remember the good."
Massaquoi said he hasn't talked much with team officials about his specific role. He has played the slot in his career, and he has played outside. He said he can play either in Jacksonville, and that while the time to decide such things will come soon enough his focus for now is on getting started and establishing himself in a new environment.
"Wherever you're at, things may not go as you wanted to for whatever reason, but this is a fresh start, a clean slate," he said. "You get a chance to start from square one and you build off of that. You take some of the things you learn from your experiences, do them and the things that didn't work so well, you try not to repeat them."
And as far as his script, Massaquoi said that if he doesn't have the ending specifically written in his mind, he's optimistic how it might turn out.
"What do I want the script to be?" he said. "I want to let the production match the talent. I want to be able to display that week in and week out. This is a young team, and I hope I can help this team grow.
"To be here for the start of something special, that's exciting."