I will never forget the day, July 29, 1995, that the Jaguars finally took the field against the Carolina Panthers in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. I will admit that I didn't recall the final score and the only thing I remembered from the game itself was Desmond Howard's punt return for a touchdown.
Of course it wasn't about the final score or even who played reasonably well; it was about the journey to get there.
Jacksonville had waited for its chance to take the NFL stage since 1993 and, if you talk to long-time residents, it was since Robert Irsay landed his helicopter at the old Gator Bowl in 1979 with promises of the Colts.
Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver and all the right dignitaries were on the sidelines of tiny Fawcett Field in Canton, along with Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and a lot of NFL brass. They wanted to make sure their first foray into expansion in nearly two decades was ready for a national stage.
Al Michaels, Dan Dierdorf and Frank Gifford walked onto the field; remember that Monday Night Football crew? The Goodyear blimp was overhead and the Jaguars were stretching in their all-white uniforms, ready to kick it off for the first time. It was overwhelming after so many months, so many late nights and so many days wondering if we could get it all done.
The guy I was focused on, head coach Tom Coughlin, had been on the job 17 months to that point, assembling a staff, scouting veteran talent, preparing for the Jags' first college draft and doing all the planning from travel to training table.
The stern taskmaster of an NFL coach with all the rules was smiling. He had missed the competition during all those months without a team. He also knew that there were many more practices, preseason games and a long inaugural season ahead… so he allowed himself to smile and enjoy the kickoff to what the Jaguars would call "A Season of Firsts."
What made that day really special was that the folks from Charlotte were experiencing the very same thing. I bet no one in Carolina remembers the score either…their cats won, 20-14.