JACKSONVILLE – Myles Jack, a second-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2016 NFL Draft from UCLA, started 16 regular-season games and three postseason games for the Jaguars last season. Jack improved in his first season as a full-time player, helping the Jaguars to their first division title in 18 seasons and the NFL's No. 2 defensive ranking. Jack also excelled in the playoffs, deflecting a pass that turned into an interception by cornerback Aaron Colvin in a 10-3 Wild Card playoff win over Buffalo and turning in an early momentum-changing interception in a Divisional Playoff victory at Pittsburgh. His strip-fumble in the second half of an AFC Championship Game loss at New England became one of the most controversial plays of the postseason; an inadvertent whistle stopped a play that could have resulted in a touchdown that would have given the Jaguars a 17-point fourth-quarter lead. Jack recently sat down with senior writer John Oehser, discussing a variety of topics including his 2017 season, the touchdown that wasn't and his expectations entering the 2018 offseason …
Question: You're spending a lot of time in Jacksonville this offseason. What's up with that?
Answer: I've been in Jacksonville probably 90 percent of the time. It's home. I bought my house here. I've got three dogs. I'm from Jacksonville in my mind.
Q: And you're getting ready for something big, too …
A: Absolutely. We've got to capitalize on what we had last year. That's pretty much the mindset and the goal. That's why I try to poke my head in this building three, four, five times a week just to kind of keep that spirit inside of me.
Q: Tell me about your mindset personally. Watching you at the end of last year, it looks like you're ready to break out, but you know you need to put in the work …
A: During the season I was figuring things out and starting to play better and better. In the playoffs, I just made a personal decision to take chances and try to make plays. I just tried to make one big play every game in the playoffs. I knew everybody was going to be watching and I love playing in big games. That's something I accomplished and now it's like, "OK, if you can make a big play every game, why not a big play every series? Every quarter?" That's where I'm developing my confidence, to where I say, "OK, you can take over a game if you apply yourself and continue working hard.''
Q: It takes time to reach that in the NFL, doesn't it?
A: Absolutely. Playing Mike (middle linebacker) in this defense is a lot of responsibility. You have to know what everybody's doing. You have to get people lined up. You may have to say something right before the ball is being snapped and at the same still remember what you have to do yourself. I progressed with that and got better and better as the year went on, but I think when the playoffs hit that's when I was saying, "OK, I'm ready to start doing my thing."
Q: Was it a touchdown?
A: (Smiling and shaking his head) It's still a touchdown.
Q: We're talking about the strip-fumble that almost was a touchdown in the AFC Championship Game. Fans will never forget the play. Is that something that's going to go with you in life? That's a tough play.
A: I remember when we got off the plane and I finally got by myself. I just remember thinking, "Damn, that would have been probably one of the greatest plays that would have ever happened … blah, blah, blah …" At the same time, I think I have more in me. If that didn't count, I can't wait to see the next thing I do that actually counts and has significance. I guess that's just a sneak peek. I'm trying to move forward. I'll eventually one day let that go. I try to not talk about it. I've got more coming.
Q: You're going into your third season. A chance to take a significant step …
A: Even the team can kind of see what kind of professional you're going to be. You get your first two years to kind of learn and get your bumps and bruises. Now, we're expected to know what's expected of us, especially with people like [Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations] Tom Coughlin and [Head Coach] Doug Marrone … there is no in between. It's one way or the other way. I know what's expected of me.
Q: How much more comfortable are you now than when you first walked in here two years ago as a rookie?
A: I didn't know. I didn't know what position I was going to be playing. I didn't know where they wanted me to be. I didn't know how people felt about me. I didn't know if people trusted me with my health and everything going on. With all of that going, it was more mental for me. That's one thing I figured out. I was blessed with physical ability and I work hard, so that's going to fall in line. But for me it's mental. Learning Sam (strong-side linebacker) and being moved around, being named the Mike, learning everything and having to get other grown men involved … it's a mental thing. I'm 22 now. I was 21 then. Mentally, I had to grow up. It was a lot. That's the main thing this offseason – I've been getting my mind right, developing my confidence, looking at what I've done, what I've messed up on and grown from that.
Q:With middle linebacker Paul Posluszny retiring last month, it's a chance this season to be the Mike all three downs – base and nickel. Is that big to you?
A: It excites me. I've been blessed to be versatile, so it comes down to whatever they say. I'm a soldier and wherever they put me, I'm going to put my time in and I'm going to see, but playing the Mike in base? That will be ideal.
Q: And now you think of yourself that way …
A: I do now. When I first came in, I didn't know. I played Will in college, nickel and safety in college, so I was never the person calling the plays. Last year was my first year telling people what to do and always having to know what's going on. I couldn't just be in my own world. I had to be in tune with what everybody else was doing.
Q: Did you get good at it by the end?
A: By then it was natural. It took work and it took repetition. Nothing comes overnight, but at the same time … credit to my coaches and [then-middle linebacker] Paul [Posluszny] and [weak-side linebacker] Telvin [Smith]. They got me to where I was. I couldn't have done it by myself. It was obviously intimidating: I've got to tell [veteran defensive end] Calais [Campbell] with a straight face, "No, you're wrong; this is what you need to do …" and stand on it, you know? At 22, that's intimidating when you're talking to a guy you've been watching since you were in high school. But now, I've developed that mutual respect with those guys. I've been to battle with them. They trust me. We're all in this together and we want to win.
Q: Is there another level for you?
A: There is. I don't know that level is because each year you figure out more and more about yourself. I just know this isn't the end. I don't know everything, but as time goes on I'll figure it out and get better.
Q:The Jaguars came as close to the Super Bowl as possible without actually making it last season. What does that do for your mindset going into next season and beyond?
A: It gave me confidence. I'm big on confidence. It gave me confidence that we went to Pittsburgh and beat them twice, then we played good enough to beat New England. We didn't win the game, but what we accomplished – how close we were – as corny as it sounds, we were there. A team like New England … they've done it so many times they know what to do. Now that we have the experience of losing like that … the game's not over until it's over in my mind – every single game.