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Waiting on an opportunity


Three days a week during the season, the Jaguars players make the nearly 300-yard walk from the locker room to the practice field as they prepare for that week's opponent. These practices can get long and laborious as the season wears on, as bodies begin to feel the effects of each Sunday.

That was never the case for Jaguars receiver Tiquan Underwood in 2009. When Underwood stepped on the practice field, it was his time to shine. He played in only three games as a rookie after being selected in the seventh round, and his only significant action came at Seattle in week five.

Not seeing consistent playing time didn't deter Underwood. He used the time to improve his game as he went up against the club's starting defense in practice as part of the scout team.

"Not playing on Sundays, it starts to get to you," Underwood said. "You have to go at it and I went out there every day like it was my game and competed hard."

One of the first pieces of advice veteran receiver Torry Holt gave Underwood last year was to be ready when his number is called.

"He said they will put you in a position to develop and learn so when you get your chance you have to run with it," Underwood said. "That's what I'm looking to do."

Underwood looks back on his rookie year as a "redshirt season." He was on the active roster for the majority of the season and traveled to all of the road games but was inactive on game day. The experience allowed him to see what it takes to succeed in the NFL.

"I learned a lot, especially with Torry being here as a mentor for all the young receivers that came in," Underwood said. "I had a chance to take a backseat, sit and observe and learn how to be a professional."

Underwood was one of several receivers who got their first taste of the NFL in 2009, joining fellow rookies Mike Thomas and Jarett Dillard and first-year pro Nate Hughes. Prior to last season, Mike Sims-Walker had only played in nine games.

With Holt gone and veteran Troy Williamson returning from an early-season shoulder injury, the Jaguars are still relatively young at the position. The average age of the club's receivers with NFL experience including 2010 free agent Kassim Osgood is 25 years old.

"We do a lot together, hang out, watch games, go out to eat," Underwood said. "It's a young group so we are all learning together. We added Kassim from San Diego who is an older guy and he along with Mike Sims-Walker and Troy Williamson lead the way."

Underwood has been a regular at the stadium during the offseason, both in the weight room and also in the film room. He wants to add weight to his 178-pound body and make a push for a more defined role.

"It's about gaining weight and being consistent as a player," Underwood said. "Once you're consistent you will earn the respect of all the guys here. That's what I'm trying to do."

Underwood doesn't label himself as a certain type of receiver. Some players get called a "speed guy" or just a "possession receiver."

"I'm in the middle," Underwood said. "I can do a little of both, play inside and outside. I'm ready to show that this year."

Underwood definitely showed his ability at Rutgers, finishing his career with 132 receptions and 16 touchdowns while starting 32 games. His six 100-yard receiving games as a junior are the third-most in Big East history, trailing only Larry Fitzgerald (10, 2003) and Marvin Harrison (7, 1995).

"When you get here you definitely realize that everybody was a star on their team," Underwood said. "Everybody's talented in the NFL and you get a reality check. You see how much more you have to work to be a good player at this level."

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