Respect arrived in the form of a harmless preseason depth chart, the importance of which coach Jack Del Rio downplayed. Forgive Ernest Wilford, however, if it's a big deal to him.
Wilford is at the top of the Jaguars depth chart at one of the team's two wide receiver positions. Matt Jones tops the other spot, with Reggie Williams listed behind Jones and Chad Owens behind Wilford.
"He entered training camp as the number one guy, or as one of the starters," coach Jack Del Rio said of Wilford. "It doesn't mean anything now. It matters in September. There's nothing official until we get to September. I wouldn't put any stock in depth charts until we get close to the games," Del Rio cautioned.
Yeah, the depth chart will change considerably before the Jaguars play the Cowboys in the season-opener. A quick look at the depth chart the Jaguars released on Monday shows the usual seniority order, but Wilford's hold on a starting job is noteworthy.
He was admittedly upset that he felt he was behind Williams during spring drills. He felt he began training camp as the number two guy at the "Z" receiver position, even though he led the Jaguars in touchdown receptions last season.
So what message does Monday's depth chart send?
"It shows hard work and dedication pays off and that I'll play a vital role in this season," Wilford said. "I'm very excited. I'm thankful for the opportunity."
He was a fourth-round pick by the Jaguars in 2004. Williams was the Jaguars' choice in the first round, with the ninth pick of the draft.
The rap on Wilford was that he lacked speed. The speed prejudice in the NFL might've wrecked his career, had he not been given the chance to show what he can do. Nonetheless, recognition of his skills came slowly.
"I always feel like I'm behind somebody," he said. "It's not about speed. It's about heart. If you have the heart to play this game, you can do whatever you put your mind to. It was definitely a tough journey, but through that journey I matured. It's not where you start, it's where you finish."
More than ever, the Jaguars need his grit and determination now. The team's passing game labored in Monday morning's seven-on-seven drills, even though Matt Jones' (ankle) return to practice provided a boost.
"We're struggling right now. We need to continue to work. We're still young and still growing. We just have to keep our poise and keep playing," Wilford said.
What does Wilford believe he has to do to hold the starting job?
"(Play with) consistency and continue to show my love of the game and build Byron's trust," Wilford said.
At third team on the depth chart at wide receiver are Cortez Hankton and Fred Stamps. Veteran wide receiver Troy Edwards (calf) returned to practice on Monday.