JACKSONVILLE – His memories are fond and vivid.
Because we're talking about John Jurkovic, it follows that those memories are funny, too.
Jurkovic, a defensive tackle for the Jaguars from 1996-1998, joined senior writer John Oehser for this week's O-Zone Podcast. It will come as no surprise to anyone who followed the team during that era that Jurkovic's memories of his three seasons with the organization come with healthy helping of humor and a large dose of humor.
But Jurkovic wasn't kidding when he talked about what his time in Jacksonville meant to him.
"It was fun," he said. "It was new. I came in the second year. … We were trying to figure out who we were – how good we could be or could not be."
As it turned out, the answer was the Jaguars could be very good.
Jurkovic, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from Green Bay, was one of several key veteran signings for the Jaguars during the 1996 offseason. Others were left tackle Leon Searcy, wide receiver Keenan McCardell and linebacker Eddie Robinson – and the team that offseason also added rookies such as linebacker Kevin Hardy, defensive end Tony Brackens and cornerback Aaron Beasley.
After a 4-7 start in 1996, the Jaguars won seven consecutive games to advance to the AFC Championship Game.
"It was a nice mix we had in there," Jurkovic said. "We had a bunch of good guys, hard-working guys. We were 4-7. We were rotten. … There were a bunch of weird things that happened to us. We didn't blow anybody out. We were winning games by three points, four points, but we were finding ways to win and we started feeling a little better about ourselves.
"We found a way to a win and found a way to get in the playoffs. Nobody expected crap from us."
The Jaguars not only got into the playoffs at 9-7, they pulled two of the biggest upsets in NFL postseason history to that point – winning 30-27 at Buffalo in an AFC Wild Card Playoff and winning 30-27 the following week at Denver in an AFC Divisional Playoff.
The Jaguars made the postseason in all three of Jurkovic's seasons with the team, making it as a wild card in 1996 and 1997 and winning the AFC Central in 1998.
"That's all you can really ask – a chance to compete, a chance to be in the playoffs," Jurkovic said.
Jurkovic also on the podcast shared stories about then-Head Coach Tom Coughlin, who masterminded and oversaw the team during the 1990s with a legendarily old-school, disciplined approach.
His approach to coaching Jurkovic was different, which Jurkovic said was by design.
"Tom Coughlin called me in one time and said, 'Listen, I'm going to yell at you … I'm going to get on you,''' Jurkovic said, "but he goes, 'You can't stop being who you are. I brought you here because of your attitude and your sense of lightening the mood when it's necessary.' He said, 'I'm going to yell at you. Don't worry about it. You just take it, but you be who you are. I need this here.' I said, 'All right, Tom. No problem.' I got along fine with Tom."
To listen to the O-Zone podcast with Jurkovic, click here.