In a season in which the Jaguars were devastated by injuries, Brad Meester was a perfect fit.
Meester was immediately projected into the starting lineup at left guard on draft day last April, when the Jaguars made Meester their second-round pick. He fit a critical need, in more ways than one. He was productive and durable.
"I've never missed a practice, high school, college or pro," Meester said.
The degree to which Meester answered the Jaguars' need for a starting left guard and responded to the team's draft-day demands make him an easy choice as Jaguars Inside Report's Rookie of the Year.
Meester is only the third player in Jaguars history to start all 16 games in his rookie season. The other two are 1999 first-round cornerback Fernando Bryant and 1995 second-round offensive tackle Brian DeMarco. Bryant won rookie of the year honors last year, and DeMarco shared the distinction with Tony Boselli for '95.
"I didn't know what to expect," Meester said of being drafted by the Jaguars, who would move Meester from his natural position of center to the vacant spot at left guard. "I had played center all through college. The first part of the season, it took quite a bit (of learning)," Meester added.
Early in the season, Meester clearly struggled. His rookie woes reached a peak on Monday night in Indianapolis, in the fourth game of the season, when Meester was exposed on national television by Colts defensive tackle Ellis Johnson.
"It was a different environment; Monday night, inside the dome. It was one of the first big tests I had. Ellis Johnson beat me on a couple of pass sets. I knew it was a rough game. I just had to respond," Meester said.
Positive response began at midseason, as running back Fred Taylor began to accumulate 100-yard games. All of the Jaguars' offensive line problems began to ease.
"Midway through the season, when the line started playing better together, I started noticing that I was playing better. It just became more natural," he said.
"I knew it was going to be different. One of the big changes was the pass sets. There was a lot of one-on-one stuff. A big help for me was all the other veterans. Tony Boselli was a big help to me," said Meester, who was often seen being lectured by Boselli as the two went back to the huddle.
"He definitely told me what I needed to do," Meester said.
"No question, he was everything I was looking for," Jaguars offensive line coach Mike Maser said. "He only had one bad game. The game against Indianapolis was the only game in which he really struggled. He improved every game. The big thing was his overall demeanor toward learning."
Expectations for Meester were enormous, especially for a kid coming out of small-time Northern Iowa. "I wasn't exposed to that level of competition every week. In the NFL, every game is a big game and every player is a great player," Meester said.
In the final analysis, Meester would seem to have benefited from his humble background in Parkersburg, Iowa, a town of 2,000 people, where his parents own an 800-acre farm on which Meester learned the value of a strong work ethic.
"A big thing that helps me is working on the farm. (My father) let me go out for sports, but when I was at home, there was always something to do," Meester said. "In the long run, I'd like to go back to the farm."
Between now and then, Meester figures to anchor a position on the Jaguars offensive line.
Rookie of the Year
1995--Tony Boselli, Brian DeMarco