In a year in which the Jaguars' first two draft picks are defensive ends, you'd think Paul Spicer might finally be pushed out to pasture. Spicer just laughs at such talk.
"How many times have they brought someone in to take my job? Paul Spicer plays the run and every now and then I get to the quarterback. Every year there's going to be someone coming out," Spicer said, laughing.
You wouldn't think this year would be a joking matter. The Jaguars' second-round pick is a pass-rush whiz and the first-round pick is likely to sign a contract that'll demand playing time.
Worried? No way. Why not? Because Spicer knows he has an advantage over anybody they throw at him. He's tougher.
"When you grow up like I did, you work for it; nothing was given. I had to watch my mother work for everything I got. The neighborhood I lived in, everybody had to work for what they got," Spicer said.
All his career, Spicer has had to work to get to where he is. When you're an undrafted free agent from Saginaw Valley State, negotiating contracts isn't a problem. You just sign on the dotted line and then give everything you have in hopes of making the roster and playing for minimum wage.
That's how Spicer came into the league. It would be accurate to say he got lucky when the Jaguars signed him off the street midway through the 2000 season, out of desperation for a defensive end, but it would be more accurate to say the Jaguars were the lucky ones. All this team has ever gotten out of Spicer is more than their money's worth.
At this time last summer, he was nursing a back injury that forced him out of action for most of training camp. Bobby McCray was coming off a 10-sack season and Brent Hawkins had mouth-watering pass-rush potential and there wasn't a person in camp who didn't think Spicer's days with the Jaguars were nearing an end. So what happened? He turned in the best year of his career.
Hey, rookie. If you're gonna push this guy out, you better bring more than a big contract.
"My family was a big thing. I really wanted to make it so I could take care of my family," Spicer said of his pursuit of an NFL career, which began by being cut by Seattle and Detroit and spending time in the Canadian Football League.
He credits his "relentless attitude to go out and have no fear. It's been working for me for the past 10 years," Spicer said.
Spicer is the poster player for the movement to limit rookie salaries and move money to more deserving veteran players. "I pray that my son has the opportunity to make that kind of money," Spicer said.
"These guys haven't done anything to prove they are worth that money and they don't have to do anything. I'm not saying that because I'm one of the older guys on the team," he said.
He's smart enough, however, to know that if marginal veteran players start making too much money, there'll be a movement to "get rid of the old guy and keep the young guy," he said.
What he's counting on is the mania in the NFL to win now. That's where he has an advantage. You can win with Spicer right now.
"This is a right-now business. Everybody wants to win right now and if you have a question mark, you can't win right now. You can't find them. You can't find Paul Spicer. The Jags called me in the fifth round, but they didn't know I'd be the player I am today," Spicer said.
Spicer is the classic example of a guy who lacked measureables, but had all of the intangibles that can't be measured. The size of his heart is off the charts.
"I had people in my life that things did come easy for them, and a lot of them squandered it away. My daughter, I'm letting her know you got work to do. My kids could easily lose focus, but I'm going to keep reminding them that these things just didn't come out of the sky. Daddy had to work for them," Spicer said.
Entering his ninth year, eventually he'll reach the end of his career. Intangibles won't get it done forever. When the day comes that he has to leave the game, he wants to become a coach.
"I may have to hit Jack (Del Rio) on the shoulder a little bit. Slide your boy in there. I don't have to start at the top. I can start at the bottom," Spicer said.
He sure can.