JACKSONVILLE – Luke Joeckel understood the moment perfectly.
The moment wasn't as high-profile as April's NFL Draft, and if he has his way, it won't be close to a career highlight. But Joeckel said he very much had an awareness Monday driving to EverBank Field that he was about to do something special. The first day of the rest of his life?
Yes, Joeckel said, you could say that.
"This is the first day of my future, so there were definitely some nerves going on – not really knowing what to expect," Joeckel said Monday as the Jaguars' rookie class and the team's quarterback reported to EverBank Field four days before the opening of 2013 Jaguars Training Camp.
That was true for Joeckel, and it was true of the rest of the rookies reporting Monday.
The have been through the offseason program, which meant they have been on the field and in meetings with Jaguars coaches and veteran players. They have gotten the information needed to begin competing this week, and they have gotten the first taste of life in the NFL.
But this week is about more than a taste.
This week is about getting ready – really, really ready – for what lies ahead, because once Friday begins, their first real NFL training camp begins. And whatever the player's draft status, the idea of the first training camp is an idea that takes a while to grasp.
"It's an amazing experience," Jaguars rookie safety Josh Evans said. "I just signed not too long ago, so I'm coming off a good note with that. I'm just ready to come in and compete.
"I wouldn't say I have butterflies. It's different from a college camp, and that's what gives you that urgency to study a little more, get that chip on my shoulder to come in and do my best."
The Jaguars' veterans are scheduled to report Thursday, with the first day of practice scheduled for Friday. The rookies underwent conditioning tests and physical examinations Monday, and this week will feature meetings and preparation each morning. The idea is to get rookies acclimated before the veterans arrive.
"You can just tell there's more a sense of urgency now," safety Steven Terrell said. "It's down to business now. It's kind of surreal that it's actually here. Growing up as a little kid, it has always been your dream, and it finally has arrived. You try not to think too much about it."
Terrell likened it to the first day of school.
"It's something new," Terrell said. "We've been in camp in high school and college, but at the highest level – we've never been there before. You have to be who you are. You have to be who you've been in OTAs, and be the person they brought you here for. You have to be yourself, keep a level head, don't get too high or don't get too low also."
Said rookie free agent linebacker Jeremiah Greene, "I'm just ready to play ball and show the coaches what I can do. I' m just trying to focus on every day, taking it one day at a time, and I think I'll be all right.
"I'm definitely excited to play, and to put on pads. I'm just excited to get back to playing the game I love."
That was true on Monday whatever the rookie's background. It was true of Terrell, a free-agent competing for a roster spot, and it was just as true of Joeckel, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft and a player expected to start immediately and dramatically improve the offensive line.
"There's a lot of excitement, getting back into football and getting back to doing something that I love to do," Joeckel said. "It's good to have a few days to get settled into the hotel. It works out better for the rookies. I'm glad to do that."
And Joeckel said while he has known for some time he would get an NFL opportunity, that doesn't mean there are no nerves as the chance begins.
"There are definitely some butterflies," Joeckel said.
Joeckel, like Evans, said the nerves pales in comparison to knowing that soon, the time will come to get a true measure of where they belong in the NFL. The Jaguars are scheduled to go into full pads Wednesday July 31, and whatever happens between that is in a very real sense a prelude to that day.
"It's definitely a new game with pads," Joeckel said. "We play football with pads on, so that's what I'm used to doing. It's going to be a learning experience, and I want to go out there and get better each day. That's what I'm really excited about it. All the other stuff is for the skill guys. When you put on pads, it really helps us get better."
Said Evans, "I'm real excited to get these pads on and show what I can do as a competition. That's really the big test."