JACKSONVILLE – It's not all Jaxson de Ville/Curtis Dvorak all the time today in the O-Zone, but it's really, really close. As it should be.
On Tuesday afternoon, a few hours after Dvorak and Jaguars President Mark Lamping announced Dvorak's retirement after 19 years, I wrote about it on jaguars.com. It was one of those stories you know probably won't capture the essence of what you're trying to write.
In this case, I was right.
I got close. I talked about a few of Dvorak's stunts, and I emphasized Dvorak's connection to the fans. But if you want to know what Dvorak's Jaxson truly meant to this fan base, read the comments below any jaguars.com story mentioning his retirement Tuesday. And read #Jaguarstwitter.
And read a few of the emails below.
He was loved – and deservedly so. Congratulations, Curtis. You will be missed. Job well done. And #DTWD.
Let's get to it … TomD from Jacksonville:
Jaxson is retired??? Holy smokes, there goes our season for sure! That's the best mascot in the league. How can we continue on without him?
John: Dvorak, the man inside the Jaxson de Ville suit since the Cat debuted in the summer of 1996, indeed announced his retirement Tuesday. Nineteen years is a long, long time in that job, and Dvorak did the job consistently, strikingly well. He's the best mascot I've ever seen and Jaguars fans rightfully feel an affinity/love/connection to him that's very, very real. Jaxson will go on and a search for Dvorak's successor is being conducted now. Jaxson will be different, certainly, but I think I speak for Dvorak when I say the Jaguars will continue on without him. #DTWD
Paul from Jacksonville:
From where I sit, it appears that we in Jacksonville have been blessed with top talent in one area since our inception. Thanks to Curtis Dvorak for making our games fun no matter the score.
John: Dvorak actually gave life to Jaxson de Ville in the summer of 1996, shortly before the Jaguars' second season. But that's nitpicky. Yes, Dvorak's Jaxson made games fun. His touch gave Jaxson a personality that will be hard to replace.
Pradeep from Bangalore, India:
Hey John, I'm having mixed feelings on the retirement of Curtis Dvorak. Would have liked him inside Jaxson de Ville costume for one more season (which would have been his 20 years). Nineteen long years of his service and dedication is truly appreciated. Good luck Curtis and thanks for entertaining us all through these years!! Jags fans miss you.
James from Jacksonville:
Hi, John, I'd like to give a heartfelt thank you to Curtis Dvorak, a.k.a., Jaxson de Ville. He will be missed. I only hope the next guy up can be as funny and energetic.
John: He absolutely will be missed. Can the next guy be the same? Certainly not, and it's not fair to expect the person to do the same. But a heartfelt thanks to Dvorak? Yeah, absolutely. This is a day for that.
Dwayne from Section 408:
I heard the news today that Curtis – aka, "Jaxson de Ville" – will be retiring this year. So sad to hear this news. Jaxson is the best team mascot by far. He's leaving some big paws to fill.....
John: Indeed he is.
Brian from Staten Island, NY:
John, now that the man inside the Jaxson de Ville costume is hanging it up, any chance you will step into the cat costume? This isn't a plea, but the fans need you. Make the sacrifice.
John: The cat deserves better than that.
Renee from Section 104/20-year season-ticket holder:
Hey, John, let me be one of the first to tell you my favorite Jaxson de Ville moment. Oh, it was cold beyond cold against the Browns. At that time my usual seats were in Section 222 but a friend gave me club seats behind Cleveland's bench. They were great seats and this was when Jaxson could roam free before the NFL got Cowher-ed. The long snapper and the punter were practicing snaps. Jaxson stood next to the punter motioning with his paws that he wanted to catch a snap. The punter shrugged his shoulders, stepped to one side. There stood Jaxson - hands up about ready to catch the ball. Right when the ball was snapped - Jaxson just walked away. He turned and left, never looking back. The ball sailed toward the south end zone! Everyone was watching! I think we all gasped and then started laughing. It is one of my favorite memories of the Jags games. Thanks Jaxson; thanks for the memories. I will miss you and your wonderful antics. Go JAGS!
John: Good stuff.
Mandy from Section 414 and Tallahassee, FL:
I've had the pleasure of watching the Cat for eight-plus years sitting in my section at the 'Bank. Should I feel sad about Jaxson retiring? I love Jaxson. I don't know what I would have done without him there, especially during these rough years. He was always a spark for our home games no matter what the scoreboard read. Does he have to go away? It also feels so wrong that the first home game without him will be when the Steelers come to town in August. I'm sure the Rooneys will be happy, at least. Farewell to 00. You will be missed. :(
John: Absolutely you should feel sad. Dvorak as Jaxson meant a lot to this fan base over the years. The Cat will live on, but absolutely it's OK to feel sad that an era has ended.
Brandon from Duval, FL:
John, I know you have to keep expectations in check to keep us fans from fanning so hard, but would you have higher expectations if Jedd Fisch was still the OC? I like Greg Olson, but how much of your trepidation is coming from a still really young offense picking up a completely new one? Basically, to you, is that the biggest thing we have to worry about other than injuries?
John: I don't know that I'm experiencing all that much "trepidation." My reluctance to go over the top with preseason predictions for this team stem from the reality that this team went 3-13 last season – and while I believe the offseason additions will make a difference, it's difficult to predict double-digit victories for a team that won three games last season. As for how Fisch's absence affects my expectation … nothing extreme, either way. I didn't bash Fisch as many fans did. While his play-calling wasn't ideal he also was dealing with enough youth and inexperience that I don't know that ideal play-calls always existed. Olson and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley appear to be like-minded in terms of philosophy and approach, and the players seem to be picking up the offense well. That makes me believe this offense can improve even while it goes through the learning curve expected for a team in the first year of a system.
Adam from Astoria, NY:
I keep hearing you say this or that player should be improved this year. But have you ever come across a player who you didn't expect to improve? Or one you saw get worse?
John: Of course you generally expect young players to improve, and of course there are players who get worse. The point with the Jaguars is there appears to be a large core of young players capable of making improvements together. Young players, especially those entering their second and third seasons, often can make huge strides. Will all of those players improve? Will all make it? Of course not. This is a percentage league and teams don't bat 1.000 when it comes to developing players. But it's reasonable to think a good percentage of these players will improve and help the team improve.
Brian from New Hampshire:
Is there a second-year player outside of Blake Bortles at quarterback and Allen Robinson at wide receiver you could see having a breakout year this year?
John: Perhaps the most significant thing about this roster is there practically isn't a shortage of second-year players who could take a step this season. In addition to Bortles and Robinson, guard Brandon Linder, wide receiver Marqise Lee, linebacker Telvin Smith, cornerback Aaron Colvin and wide receiver Allen Hurns all showed enough last season to make you think a step forward could happen in Year Two. What would qualify as a breakout season? I'm not sure. Smith and Linder, for instance, already played pretty well last season, so people know about them. But I'm less concerned about players breaking out than playing well enough to help the team improve, and all of the players I've mentioned are capable of that.
Jerry from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I feel a greater sense of disappointment than when any player left or retired. Thanks Curtis for being the best and always being a bright spot even when the team wasn't. Go Jags.
John: The emotions of fans over Dvorak's retirement are real. He connected with fans through Jaxson in a lasting, important way.
Jeff from Section 213 and Fernandina Beach, FL:
Say it ain't so, John-O? Jaxson de Ville is hanging up the cleats? Man, what a legend! No one will be able to fill Curtis' big paws any time soon! Best mascot in all of football. Just want to thank him for 19 incredible years!! Jaxson de Ville till we die!