Zach Potter has made it to another final cut. Last year, he was with the Jets when the ax fell. This year, he hopes the ax won't fall on him in Jacksonville.
Potter is a Gene Smith creation, a 6-7, 280-pound former Nebraska defensive end in whom the Jaguars general manager saw the makings of a tight end. With each passing day, Potter looks more like a tight end should and Thursday night, in the Jaguars' final preseason game, Potter hopes to win a spot on the Jaguars' final 53.
"I was cut by the Jets in final cuts. I went home to Nebraska and Mr. Smith called me a week later and said we have a spot down here on the practice squad for you as a tight end. I said, "Yes, sir," and I got on the plane," Potter recalled of what could turn out to have been a pivotal moment in his football career.
So what did Smith see that led him to believe Potter was a tight end hiding at defensive end?
"He had a basketball background and he's an intelligent guy. He's exactly what the practice squad is for. We decided to take him and utilize the developmental squad to develop him into a tight end," Smith said.
"The blocking tight end is a dying breed in the NFL. He knows his future is more at the tight end position than it ever would've been at the defensive end position. I saw a guy with a big frame that could block defensive ends. He embraced the role when given the opportunity to do so," Smith added.
Potter is a blocking tight end on a team with a surplus of pass-catching types. Hey, somebody other than Marcedes Lewis has to do the dirty work, right?
"When Mr. Smith presented me with the opportunity, I jumped on it. A defensive playbook is a lot easier. The learning curve has been great, but so far so good," Potter said.
What does he think of his chances to make the final roster?
"I've given it my all. Last year was a great opportunity. I've made myself better. If I make the team, great. If I make the practice squad, great. If all else fails, then I put some tape out there," Potter said.
Guys his size don't go away quickly. The demand for what Smith calls the "dying breed" is increasing and Potter's game is on the rise. His chances of making the team are good. Thursday will likely tell the tale.
"You always get anxious when a cut's coming. I'm still here for another cut round and hopefully this year will be better than last year," he said, after learning he had survived the cut to 75 on Tuesday.
Potter spent last year on the Jaguars practice squad, until the end of the season when he was activated and started the final game of the season in Cleveland, his first-ever regular-season NFL action.
"It was freezing cold. We started in a two-tight end set so I got to start my first NFL start. I'm so far ahead of where I was last year. I wish I had known then what I know now," he said.
A communications graduate at Nebraska, Potter eyes a career in pharmaceutical sales.
"I needed to learn to be a better talker, sales person. I'm a people person. I can talk to anybody all day long. Sales is a big people business. I think it's a good opportunity for me when football is over," he said.
When? That's to be decided, soon.