JACKSONVILLE – He sat at a podium, reflecting on the first day of the rest of his life.
“It felt like I was wanted here,” Josh Allen said Friday afternoon.
Consider the feeling accurate. And mutual.
Yes, the Jaguars really wanted Allen – the University of Kentucky edge defender they selected Thursday with the No. 7 overall selection of the 2019 NFL Draft. But they didn’t think they would get him.
“Fortunately for us, he fell to us,” said Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell, sitting next to Allen on the same podium Friday in the Jaguars’ team meeting room at TIAA Bank Field.
That was perhaps the main theme of Allen’s introductory press conference Friday – that while neither the Jaguars nor Allen believed he would make it to the Jaguars at No. 7, both sides were ecstatic he did.
While that’s similar to what we heard Thursday upon Allen being drafted, it bears repeating: Allen was projected as one of the top edge rushers in one of the best edge-rusher drafts in recent memory. Most analysts considered him minimum a Top 5 selection. Some considered him Top 3.
This could be a steal. A franchise-definer.
“This is an excellent young man that we have high expectations for, but he has higher expectations than we do,” Caldwell said. “We know that this is the right type of individual – with his work ethic, his presence, how he approaches the game, his passion for the game …
“We think he has a very high ceiling for us.”
With that, Caldwell opened the presser for questions. And with that, Allen’s one-year-old son, Wesley, stole the show – and likely the hearts of viewers. Wesley sat on Allen’s lap early in the presser, making noises into the microphone and momentarily donning the Jaguars helmet that sat before his father, Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone.
Allen, who also carried Wesley through much of his media availability Thursday at the draft in Nashville, Tennessee, talked extensively of his son on Friday.
“He’s the reason I play so hard, and he’s the reason I go to work every day,” Allen said.
He talked, too, of the importance his wife, Kaitlyn. The two married last week at the Kentucky Castle – an exclusive venue, to hear Allen tell it.
“We know people who know people and got us in there,” he said with a smile.
But know this: While his new family is important to Allen, football is a priority. He said the reason he and Kaitlyn married last week was football will take priority after the draft. And when Thursday night’s life-altering whirlwind subsided, it was football the newlyweds discussed.
“We just talked about how we’re going to achieve greatness and success in this next part of our lives,” he said.
The specifics of how those things will be achieved was a topic Thursday. Allen, a two-star, lightly recruited freshman who became the 2018 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, said no question a reason he is excited about Jacksonville is the franchise’s emphasis on rushing the quarterback. Upon arriving at the Jacksonville International Airport for his pre-draft visit, he noticed a #Sacksonville sign. An impression was made.
“The defense here is crazy … they have swag, veterans, young talent,” said Allen, who registered 17.5 of his 31.5 collegiate sacks as a senior. “I want to be a part of that and make my peers better.”
Allen, Marrone and Caldwell also emphasized Friday that Allen isn’t “just” a pass rusher.
“You see people saying, ‘Outside linebacker and he can put his hand on the ground on third down and rush the quarterback,’’’ Marrone said. “We’ll get him on the field and put him in the best position to give us the best opportunity to stop the run and get after the quarterback.”
Allen left no doubt the believes he can play the run and play well in coverage.
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” he said. “I’m going to try to be great, and I’ve got a lot of great players with me.”
Allen listed some of those players: defensive ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. All have played in Pro Bowls. All likely will be on the field in passing situations next season along with the Jaguars’ latest Top 10 draft selection.
“Hopefully, we’ll bring Sacksonville 2.0 here,” Allen said, smiling.
Allen also on Friday talked again about the chip on his shoulder from being lightly recruited. But by the end of the presser, he was discussing his day touring the ‘Bank. He talked of the happiness of being selected by the Jaguars, and the happiness of his new teammates.
“Everybody was just shocked – so when I did come here everybody was cheering,” Allen said. “I feel really appreciated here. They’re excited to see me and I’m excited to be here.
“Now, I want to be my best to keep them excited for me.”
Yes, it was very apparent Friday the Jaguars wanted Allen.
And equally apparent the feeling was mutual.
2019 first-round pick Josh Allen arrives at TIAA Bank Field for his first day as a Jacksonville Jaguar.