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View from the O-Zone: "I love him"


JACKSONVILLE – The tears came fast, and they didn't stop.

The subject was Paul Posluszny. The speaker was Jaguars Pro Bowl linebacker Telvin Smith, who stood at a podium Monday afternoon and talked about his friend, his teammate, his mentor.

"It's kind of tough standing here," was the first thing Smith said.

This was Monday's scene inside EverBank Field:

Posluszny, who last month announced his retirement after 11 NFL seasons, was being honored by the Jaguars. Posluszny had asked Smith to introduce him because no teammate was closer to Posluszny and no teammate knew more about what he meant to the Jaguars for seven seasons.

So, Poz asked and Smith said yes …

And now here was Smith in suit and tie standing behind a podium in the team meeting room preparing to speak. The first tear came before the end of the first sentence.

It was clear quickly it wouldn't be the last. Smith forced a smile.

"Already," he said with a laugh.

Yeah, already … and you know what? That was OK. And throughout Smith's five-minute introduction to Posluszny he reminded anyone listening exactly why Monday was so important, and exactly why Posluszny mattered so much to his teammates and this organization.

Toughness. Leadership. Professionalism.

Posluszny personified all of it for seven seasons, and Smith made clear on Monday that Posluszny's influence in that area won't end with his retirement.

Posluszny for his part was expectedly humble during his comments, thanking teammates, coaches, front-office staff – pretty much anyone associated with the Jaguars.

"I absolutely loved being a Jacksonville Jaguar," Posluszny said, and anyone listening knew he meant it.

Why did the Jaguars love Posluszny? Why did his teammates so respect him?

What did he mean besides being a Pro Bowl selection in 2013?

What did he mean besides leading the team in tackles five seasons, besides setting a franchise record for linebackers with 11 interceptions?

Smith put that in perspective:

"I can go on and on about the guy and his accolades, but I promise you: I never thought I'd meet somebody who didn't grow up in the struggle that I did and love the game as much as I did – but I met somebody who understood what hard work and perseverance meant."

Smith emotionally discussed Posluszny's toughness, recalling the October 2014 game against Cleveland in which Posluszny tore his pectoral muscle off the bone. Posluszny finished the series and had to be restrained from reentering the game. He missed the rest of the season.

"I don't even know if you all understand what that means –* torn off the bone*," Smith said. "A lot of people don't even know how to take that type of pain, but he took it and went in again. They had to pull him out of the game."

Posluszny from the time Smith entered the NFL as a fifth-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft praised Smith publicly. He talked often of his talent, and through a time when Smith learned from mistakes never wavered that Smith would someday be among the NFL's best linebackers.

Posluszny attended Smith's brother's funeral in Valdosta in November 2016, traveling with Smith that day to Detroit for a game the following day. Posluszny consoling Smith in the postgame locker room following that game was one of the most emotional, memorable scenes in recent Jaguars memory.

Their relationship went well beyond public moments.

"There are conversations we've had that will affect me and that you all see when you see growth in me," Smith said. "Forever and ever and ever his legacy will live on for what he's done here. I love him, I appreciate him."

Smith directed his words directly to Posluszny when he said: "Just know I've never met better man than you. I've never had a better teammate than you. I don't think I've ever been able to say someone love me that I didn't do something for, than you."

He also spoke directly to Posluszny in his closing comments when he discussed the Jaguars' loss in the AFC Championship Game to New England this past season. Posluszny before last season never had played on a team with a winning record and never been to the postseason.

Smith several weeks ago said Posluszny very much inspired the team during its postseason run. Smith made clear on Monday that his now former teammate will inspire the next one, too.

"I promise you, I promise you, I promise you I won't let you down," Smith told Posluszny. "I feel like that last game we let you down. So, I dedicate this next season to you …"

Smith spoke a bit more. In those words, he told Posluszny once more he loved him. He then introduced him to the room.

The tears hadn't really stopped. And that was OK.

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