JACKSONVILLE – He's the leader. Unquestionably.
While that was unofficial before this week – before the week of his first regular-season opener as a starting NFL quarterback – Gardner Minshew II's teammates made it official early this week.
As his second NFL season begins, he's a captain now.
And that matters. A lot.
"It means everything," Minshew said.
Minshew, speaking on a videoconference Wednesday, as the Jaguars prepared to play the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday's 2020 regular-season opener at TIAA Bank Field, spoke extensively about being named captain. He also discussed how far he has come since this time last year, when he entered Week 1 as a backup before replacing Nick Foles and going 6-6 as a starter.
It's a new era for the Jaguars now, a real opportunity for Minshew – and wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. said the captaincy that means so much to Minshew is a deserved one. And a significant one.
"This being his team, being a captain – I think that's a big jump," Chark said.
Minshew, who threw 21 touchdowns and six interceptions as a rookie, by all accounts spent the offseason earning the captaincy. Teammates and coaches throughout the season praised his leadership and work ethic, as well as a maturity that belies his age and experience.
Coaches also have praised a seriousness and approach that runs counter to his public persona. While Minshew went viral with an ESPN Week 1 hype video this week in which he dramatically lip-synched Celine Dion's "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," Head Coach Doug Marrone said he doesn't see that version of Minshew around TIAA Bank Field.
"I know him in a different light," Marrone said. "I see him as a guy who comes in here every day and prepares like he's an accountant, which is probably the exact opposite of what you feel because you see him in a different light. I don't know that person. I know the accountant who comes in and works his butt off. That's what I focus on."
New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden echoed that sentiment, saying he was impressed throughout this past offseason and training camp with the young quarterback's approach.
"When he's in the building, he's a focused individual," Gruden said. "He's got a lot to learn. He knows he has a lot to learn. He works extremely hard with fundamentals with what we're putting in front of him from a playbook standpoint. He's been a professional and that's the way you have to be at the quarterback position.
"When he wants to put his hair down – and he has a lot of it – I'm sure he can do that off the field, but I've been very impressed with Gardner as professional quarterback and how he's handled himself as a professional and in the classroom."
Minshew said that approach – and his ability focus through what by any measure has been a whirlwind year – comes naturally. The opportunity he has earned, and which is now at hand, he said, "is something I've been working for and preparing for really as long as I've played football."
"It's on a bigger stage now, with higher competition," he said, "but the game is still the same. The relationships you have are still the same. The preparation is still the same. It's something I've kind of been preparing for for long time."
Chark, who meshed with Minshew immediately last season in what for Chark was a Pro Bowl season, said while Minshew will benefit from being a captain.
"You know the guys in the team are supporting you and they want you to succeed – opposed to wishing someone else was quarterback and things like that," Chark said. "That translates to the field. You know when you're dropping back everyone on the team wants you to succeed.
"I think that's the biggest thing with the confidence he has."
And while Minshew on Wednesday discussed the above-mentioned ESPN commercial with his usual smile and good-natured persona, he was more serious when discussing being one of eight Jaguars 2020 captains. He's the leader now. The meaning of that was evident.
"That's one of the highest honors you can have, being voted on by your peers to represent them," he said. "Of all the 'awards' you can win, that's one that to me means the most. That's really how you are with the guys around you and their opinion of you. That's the best measure of somebody."