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MJD retirement ceremony: "It's over with"


JACKSONVILLE – He signed his name, and that was it.

"It's over with," Maurice Jones-Drew said at the outset of his retirement ceremony at EverBank Field Tuesday.

Jones-Drew, a three-time Pro Bowl running back and the second all-time leading rusher in Jaguars history, on Tuesday signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the organization. He announced his retirement from the NFL early last month.

He will be placed on the NFL's reserve/retired list.

"It's crazy," he said. "I don't know what to say. Nine years flew by."

Jones-Drew, 30, a second-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2006 NFL Draft, played eight seasons with the franchise, and then played his final season this past season with the Oakland Raiders. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three seasons (2009-2011) and was the NFL rushing champion in 2011.

"It truly was a privilege to be associated with Mojo," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley, who coached Jones-Drew one season – 2013 – in Jacksonville, said.

Jones-Drew remembered family, teammates, high school, college and professional coaches, former and current Jaguars personnel officials and Jaguars staff during the ceremony, and also joked with members of the media. He grew emotional only a couple of times, notably when he spoke of his wife, Ashley, and the sacrifices made rearing three children while he was often absent playing and training.

"I said I wasn't going to cry, so I'm going to try not to," he said, adding of his wife, "Playing at the level you guys saw took countless hours of practice, preparation and leaving my family for months on end. To have a wife who was willing to accept that and be a mother by herself and a single parent for most of the time … that was special."

Jones-Drew said he plans to pursue broadcasting, and while he has spoken with just about every network associated with the NFL, he said he likely will join either Fox Sports or the NFL Network. A native of Oakland who makes his home in California, he said he narrowed it to those two networks because he wants to live and work on the West Coast.

Jones-Drew added that he played football "to inspire people."

"This game has done so much for me and my family," he said. "From where I am and what I came from, it's just done so much. I appreciate the game. I can't wait to see my kids play it."

Jones-Drew added, "I wouldn't change it for the world. The game gave me so much. I gave it a little knee cartilage, a foot, a hand … but there's nothing like this game."

The No. 60 overall selection in the 2006 draft, Jones-Drew started 70 of 114 games in eight seasons with the Jaguars, leading the team in rushing in six of eight seasons. He finished his career having rushed for 8,167 yards and 68 touchdowns on 1,847 carries and having caught 346 passes for 2,944 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

He made the Pro Bowl each year from 2009 until 2011, and is the only player in Jaguars history with at least 1,300 yards rushing in three consecutive seasons.  He became the first player in franchise history to lead the NFL in rushing with a team-record 1,606 yards on 343 carries in 2011.  

He holds career records for touchdowns (81) and rushing touchdowns, and also set the franchise single-season record for rushing touchdowns with 15 in 2009. He is second in franchise history with 8,071 career rushing yards, 1,804 rushing attempts and 13,131 all-purpose yards. His 27 100-yard rushing games are also second in franchise history.

Former Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney called Jones-Drew "one of the best running backs that I have faced over the years" and Colts linebacker/defensive end Robert Mathis called playing Jones-Drew "a problem."

"He was the type of guy you hate going against but you respect his game to the utmost," Mathis said, with Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin calling him a "dynamic, dedicated man."

"He played the game the way it was supposed to be played," Tomlin said. "He was a football player first and a running back second."

Former teammates also lauded Jones-Drew, with former running back Fred Taylor – who played with Jones-Drew from 2006-2008 – saying it was tough to talk briefly about Jones-Drew for fear of leaving something out.

"Maurice came into the league NFL-ready, unlike most rookies," Taylor said. "He was very confident, assertive and anxious to hit the field so he could prove the critics wrong who thought he was too small.  MJD aspired to be the best running back in the history of the game. … I think it's safe to say MJD had a great career."

Jones-Drew, as he often did while playing, spoke on Tuesday entering the league disappointed in having been passed over by 32 teams in the first round of the 2006 draft. Although the Jaguars selected him No. 60, he wore No. 32 to remind him of what he believed was a first-round snub.

"That day will always stay with me,'' he said. "It was so impactful. I was riding high. I thought I was going to go Top 10. I thought I was going No. 1, to be honest with you. It was humbling, and it was very impactful on my career."

Jones-Drew said he realized after a foot injury in 2012 he likely was nearing the end of his career, but while he ran with a physical, pounding style throughout his career, he said he didn't regret his approach. He said he got himself into the best shape of his career last offseason after signing with Oakland. He sustained a hand injury in the regular-season opener and rushed for 96 yards on 43 carries and no touchdowns in 12 games.

"I was like, 'All right, things are starting to hurt that normally don't hurt,'" Jones-Drew said, adding that he worked out this offseason with the idea of playing again before opting to retire to spend time with family.

"It was like, 'I've done enough, they've sacrificed enough, it's time for me to do the same,'" he said.

Jones-Drew joked often Tuesday, talking about eating four plates of nachos on the day he decided to retire, and also joking that he played flag football against some high school players – and "was tearing them up" – earlier this month.

"I almost called my agent and said, 'Hey, I've still got it – let's make a couple of phone calls,'" he said, laughing. "I still feel like I could play at a high level.

"I guess my mind is not as strong as my body is, because my mind is like, 'At the end of the day, you want to get out of this thing healthy.' … It was just time.''

And Jones-Drew said while he regrets not winning a championship with the Jaguars, he regrets little else about his eight seasons with the team.

"I wouldn't trade my career for anything," he said. "I try to preach that to everyone, 'Don't just jump on the bandwagon. Go a different path. Do what makes you happy.' For me, playing ball in Jacksonville were some of the happiest moments of my life."

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