JACKSONVILLE – They're living the NFL dream they first dreamed long ago.
What is weird and special for Jaguars defensive backs Shaquill Griffin and Rayshawn Jenkins – and what neither imagined all those years ago – is they're living it together.
"It's crazy that it is all one full circle," Griffin told jaguars.com recently. "Many years later and we're back."
Griffin and Jenkins signed with the Jaguars as unrestricted free agents in March. The moves bolstered the Jaguars' secondary and made the duo teammates again – something that first happened when they were five years old and both playing for the Lakewood Junior Spartans youth football team in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"I remember a lot," Griffin said. "You know it's funny Rayshawn has the same number that he did back then, so it brings back a lot of memories. We all wanted to stay together through high school and college, that was always the goal.
"We all had to take a different route after youth football."
Those routes brought Jenkins and Griffin to separate high schools and colleges, with Jenkins attending the University of Miami and Griffin playing at the University of Central Florida. They stayed close throughout college and were drafted by different NFL teams – Griffin by the Seattle Seahawks and Jenkins by the Los Angeles Chargers.
Now, they're back playing on the same team, 18 years later.
"It's like we didn't miss a beat," Griffin said. "I think that is the reason we are so close and continue to talk every day. It does not matter what it is, about football or about life, we are trying to watch each other grow. It's a brotherhood, he has been my brother since five years old."
Signing Griffin and Jenkins addressed a big need for a pass defense that ranked second to last in the league last season. Both were highly recommended to Head Coach Urban Meyer and have exceeded expectations since they arrived in Jacksonville.
"We kind of had an idea of what we'd get, but they've actually been better than I thought they would be and I'm not talking about football ability," Meyer said. "I'm talking about people, I'm talking about work ethic, leaders on the field. They've been great."
Griffin, speaking during the Jaguars' voluntary offseason program that continues this week with 2021 Organized Team Activities presented by Baptist Health, laughed when recalling how Jenkins slept through his Facetime call when he found out they would be reunited in their home state.
"The day before, he [Rayshawn] signed with the Jags, and I called him and congratulated him," Griffin said. "The next day, I sign really early in the morning. I call Rayshawn and he is still sleeping – 'Get up, get up, get up! Bruh, I just signed!'
"He just kept saying "what" … it's pitch black on the Facetime; I can't see him. He then went to change his flight, we wanted to fly in together, it was a crazy moment."
Their close relationship has been obvious since the duo arrived in Jacksonville, with the pair almost always together walking out to practice or around the facility. And when the pair are together, it's all business.
"Today before practice we talked to each other: 'Hey, what do you need to work on today? What do I need to work on today?''' Jenkins said. "'Let's make sure we're doing that and if we don't see each other doing that, let's hold each other accountable.'"
Watching the pair practice, it's easy see those seven-year-old boys flying around the Dream Finders Homes Practice Fields. They bring a refreshing glimpse for the love of the game … but make no mistake: pushing teammates to win is the No. 1 priority for Griffin.
"Every time he [Jenkins] makes a play I am like, 'OK, it's my turn,''' Griffin said. "We're on the field and I have someone coming up to me saying, 'Hey watch, Shaq. I am going to make this play right here, Shaq.' And he does. It's that confidence that you know you're not going to be the one person on this team who is making plays, I'm going to make one, too.
"It's starting to spread through the whole defense. It's cool because everyone wants to be that guy. Rayshawn and I always competed within each other and within our group. We're learning how to celebrate each other success. Anybody that makes a play, we're running around happy, that is how it should be.
"It's starting to carry over. It's contagious."
Top photos of the Jaguars during the second week of 2021 OTAs.