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View from the O-Zone: Farewell to a tough, classy guy


JACKSONVILLE – The end of football came Thursday for Greg Jones.

He didn't want it to come. Few football players do, but because it had to end, the tough, quiet man with the otherworldly physique figured this was the way to do it.

Jones returned and retired at the same time Thursday.

He retired at EverBank Field.

He retired as a member of the Jaguars.

That meant he did it at the place where he spent nine NFL seasons. That meant he did it from a team that valued him, and whose fans admired him to a degree rare for players at his position.

And for Jones that made Thursday as cool as was possible.

"It must come to an end sooner later – it's about that time," Jones said in front of gathered media and team employees at EverBank Field Thursday afternoon. "This city and team has meant so much to my family … I just felt it was the right thing to do."

Jones didn't say much Thursday, but what he said was moving, and heartfelt. He asked those attending to bear with him in a short speech. He teared up near the end, but he made it through.

He thanked former Jaguars coaches and front-office personnel. He thanked his family, including his mother and the grandmother who never saw him play. He thanked former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. He thanked Shad Khan, Gus Bradley and David Caldwell for signing him to a one-day contract that allowed him to retire with the team.

He said he didn't mind missing the limelight given to feature backs. What mattered to him was the other team, the guys on the other side of the white line, "knew the deal."

He said he wants to coach, or scout, and he'd like to work in the NFL. Someday, he'd like to be an offensive coordinator.

He said he was still a Jaguar, and always would be, that his family still rooted for the Jaguars during his season with the Houston Texans in 2013.

He said while he bleeds garnet and gold he bleeds teal and black, too.

That he was brief was fitting. He never said much publicly in nine seasons as a battering-ram fullback for the Jaguars. What he did instead was lead block for Fred Taylor, then for Fred Taylor/Maurice Jones-Drew, then for just Maurice Jones-Drew – and oh, did he lead block.

He lead blocked well enough – as well as anyone in the NFL – that @leadblock33 became his Twitter handle. His foundation? Lead Block Foundation. Lead Block became his identity.

When teammates spoke of Jones during his career, they spoke of a player with freakish strength. Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee, like Jones a member of the team's 2004 draft class, emceed Thursday's event and spoke of a shirtless Jones walking through the Jaguars' locker room – and of veterans requesting he put his shirt on.

Yes, in a strong, tough man's game Jones stood out for those traits.

"It's funny because people would talk trash to me when Greg wasn't on the field," Jones-Drew said. "They wouldn't say too much when he was out there."

Former Jaguars center Brad Meester said he never saw Jones lose an on-field fight.

"He always came out on top," Meester said. "I remember a game in Pittsburgh and one of their players literally had him down on the ground.  You could see Greg on the ground, guy on top of him, and he would use his sheer strength to lift himself off the ground with a guy on him and fight him off.

"I have never seen anything like that before."

Teammates, too, recalled another side.

"He's an amazing teammate and even better person," Taylor said. "Selflessness and humility are two character traits that come to mind when I think of 'G.'"

Taylor is probably the best running back in Jaguars history. The only player who comes remotely close echoed the sentiments.

"Greg is one of the best people I have ever been around," Jones-Drew said. "He's just a kind person. He's not selfish.  It was never about Greg Jones. It was always about how he could help the Jaguars win a championship."

Taylor and Jones-Drew each talked of the sacrifice Jones made for the team, for them. Jones didn't begin his career wanting to lead block. An ACL injury at FSU and another in the NFL made the role his reality. And just being a good lead blocker – which Jones certainly was – doesn't make it fun. And it sure ain't painless.

Jones, a second-round selection in the 2004 NFL Draft, not only played the role, but played it willingly. And while the role is often overlooked, he wasn't overlooked at all in Jacksonville.

Not by the team, which signed him to a five-year, $17 million deal in 2008.

And not by the fans, among whom Jones had cult-hero status. In recent days, I solicited on Twitter what I call "Greg Jones-isms," which became popular during his career. Fans responded.

From Josh90i4: "Greg Jones doesn't move the chains, he moves the whole field."

From JvilleThrill: "Greg Jones wears pads because of NFL rules. Other players wear pads because of Greg Jones."

From onelonefool: "When Greg Jones does a push up he just pushes planet Earth away from himself."

From mattbush116: "Superman and Greg Jones once had a bet. The loser had to wear his underwear on the outside of his suit."

The end came for the Jaguars' Superman Thursday. He didn't want the end to come. Still, he knew the time was right. The place was right, too.

"I love the city – I love the team," he said. "That's how I'm cut right now."

And that made a difficult day a memorable, fitting one, too.

Former Jaguars fullback Greg Jones announces his retirement. Take a look back at some of his memorable moments in a Jaguars uniform.

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