JACKSONVILLE – Jarrod Wilson's circumstances have changed – dramatically, actually.
Not that he sees it that way.
"Nothing's given," he said. "It's all earned."
That has been his mindset since his days as an NFL longshot. So, although he's now projected to start, Wilson's not thinking of it that way.
"I may or may not be penciled in as a starter, but I'm not looking at that," Wilson said Thursday shortly before practice on Day 5 of 2019 Jaguars organized team activities at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex adjacent to TIAA Bank Field.
"That will come in September. Right now, I'm just looking to become a better me, better man and just trust the entire process."
Wilson may not be thinking of himself as starter quite yet, but make no mistake:
He's expected to start at strong safety next season, and he and second-year veteran Ronnie Harrison are two of the Jaguars' major offseason stories.
"The biggest thing is we want [during the offseason] is to see [players] execute above the neck," Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said Thursday. "Right now, both of our safeties – [Harrison] and J-Dub are doing that. We are right on track with where we think we need to be."
The Jaguars' safeties are a major offseason story because change is always a big story – and few Jaguars positions have changed as dramatically in recent months as safety, with the team releasing veteran Barry Church late last season and veteran Tashaun Gipson in mid-March.
Harrison, a third-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, was a logical selection to start at one safety position. Wilson was a less logical selection.
Wilson, who played collegiately at the University of Michigan, originally signed with the Jaguars a collegiate free agent shortly after the 2016 NFL Draft. He has been on the roster since, playing 47 of 48 regular season games as a backup safety and on special teams.
His first two career starts came late last season after Church's release and after Harrison was placed on injured reserve, so many observers were surprised when the Jaguars signed him to a three-year deal early in the offseason with the idea of him starting alongside Harrison.
Wilson registered nine tackles, a tackle for a loss and a pass defensed in two starts in the last two regular-season games last season.
"He played solid for us last year," Wash said.
Wilson on Thursday said he is aware people see him as an unknown.
"I don't even pay it no mind," Wilson said. "I trust the process and trust in God. God put me in this situation for a reason."
"I can just tell you one thing," he said. "I know I'm ready, you know what I mean? I'm definitely more than ready. I'm not going to get overly anxious or anything, waiting for September, but I'm ready. I know the work I put in this offseason in the film room and on the field. I'm confident in the work I've put in.
"You've always got to stay ready, so you never have to get ready. I'm ready for the opportunity. It's a blessing to be in this situation.
"I'm confident in myself. Come September, I won't have any doubts."
Wilson said his approach this offseason hasn't changed significantly. He worked with the starters the past two offseasons with Church and Gipson missing extensive OTA practices with injuries. He also has played extensively on special teams his first three seasons, preparing each week for his backup role behind the veterans.
"I've seen a lot of football now, going into my fourth season," Wilson said. "I've blessed to be in the same scheme for four years, so knowing the defense in its entirety – and seeing how teams attack this defense … I've been able to be around it for three years, so I think that's a plus for me.
"I like studying film. I watch a lot of old film. Taking that all in – mistakes guys have made, plays guys have made – and being around the scheme, I'm comfortable in it."
And after earning his way into the league – and into a starting opportunity – Wilson said he is comfortable he will continue in that vein in the fall.
"I've never been a guy who has been entitled to anything," Wilson said. "The undrafted route – I clearly didn't want that. But even though that happened, it makes me want it that much more. I was always counted out.
"Now, I come out with that mentality – that I'm going to earn it every day: Earn playing more, earn the starting job … I wouldn't want it any other way."