Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver has talked openly the last three years about the Jaguars fan base growing as the younger generation that grew up with the franchise gets older and has the ability to become Jaguars season ticket owners. William Johnson is a perfect example.
Johnson vividly remembers attending games during the inaugural season of 1995 with his father, and he is now continuing the tradition by making his two young daughters and wife a part of the game day experience at EverBank Field.
Johnson was one of 10 fans chosen to have their photo appear on the club's 2011 general bowl season tickets. Winners were selected by fans on jaguars.com and the Jaguars Facebook page. Here is his story:
"I grew up going to Jaguars games with my dad. We moved to Jacksonville when I was four years old. I grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan and my dad was a New York Giants and New York Jets fan. When the Jaguars came to town, going to games became something we could do together. They have been my team since 1995.
"We started off with the Hall of Fame preseason game in Ohio in 1995 and then became season ticket holders. I don't think I missed a game with him until I joined the military. My dad had season tickets up until he passed away in 2003. He's the reason we sit in section 225 now, because my dad had seats right below us in 125.
"I remember my first year in 1995 and especially 1996 when we rode the buses to the stadium back and forth to our car. You remember the nights when we won and how excited everybody was, all the Jaguars gear everybody used to wear on the buses. It was just a good time. The best thing about being a season ticket holder is just the experience and people you get to meet. We sat in front of the same people for eight years and you get to know all the different fans. There were Chicago Bears fans that were there with us. Everyone is just there supporting the Jaguars.
"We just moved back from Japan where I was in the military. When we returned home and started following football on a normal basis again, my daughters became Jaguars fans. I waited until I returned home from the military to buy tickets so I could use them. This photo was taken at the Houston Texans game this past season. It was the first game we were able to take our two daughters to so they were really excited about it. They are eight and seven years old. My girls had a blast at the Texans game. When Mike Thomas caught that Hail Mary they went insane. They were up on people's shoulders, giving everyone a high-five. It was just a blast.
"You have to come to the game to experience it. It helps to have the right experience. Sometimes you can go to a game and have a bad experience which leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It can be from other fans but nine times out of 10 you are going to have a good time, especially if you open your mind to it and allow yourself to have a good time. It's about being at the Indianapolis game and watching Josh Scobee kick the field goal and Jaxson de Ville catching it. At the Houston game, the disappointment literally of seeing a ball go up and knowing there is a strong possibility we are going to lose and then hearing the announcer that it was caught right in our end zone. It's all the ups and downs of the season.
"My wife didn't watch and wasn't interested in football and then she started going to the games with me this year. For the first time in the 15 years I have been with her, she is a football fan because she is going to the games. She actually asks me what is going on and about the rules. If I can't watch the game or if it's an away game, she will actually call me and tell me what's going on.
"Everybody that knows me will tell you how big of a fan I am. They automatically think that I push this on my daughters but I honestly didn't. My oldest daughter's room is teal and she goes and buys stuff during the football season. They have a David Garrard jersey. I don't push it on them at all and don't make them go to the games or make them wear the stuff. They truly are becoming fans. I think it's about being able to spend time with me and do something all together as a family.
"Having the Jaguars has given me time to spend with my family on Sunday when the Jaguars are on. Now my wife and my kids want to be there with me. That is awesome!
"I would probably go with Fred Taylor as my favorite player of all-time just from growing up closer to Gainesville. I'm not a Gator fan. I actually grew up watching Warrick Dunn but I saw Fred throughout his college career through the rivalry of Florida State and Florida. I got to see him with the Jaguars and grow with the club. I think he's one of the most underrated running backs from a media standpoint and probably fans outside of Jacksonville. I don't think he's underrated by coaches or other players in the NFL from what I have heard.
"I learned a lot from reading Ask Vic about my temperament and tempering my expectations, basically watching the game without getting so angry. I used to get real upset when the Jags lost, especially if it was a bad loss or if I felt it was a game we should have played better. Now I take it in stride and look at the big picture of what Gene Smith has done just in his first two draft classes. I can't wait to see what he does the next couple of years. I think if we don't go to the Super Bowl or the playoffs this year, I know that he's building the team the right way. He's building the team to be a perennial playoff contender. That's what I want from the team. I'm never happy when we lose but its easier knowing we're losing because we have talented players but they are just young or inexperienced, instead of having a bunch of guys who shouldn't have been a first-round pick or whatever.
"I take pride in being with this franchise from the beginning. I was at the game in Canton, Ohio and I was at the first home game against the Houston Oilers. Watching the evolution and now being able to purchase tickets and support the team, knowing there are other kids growing up in Jacksonville and our fan base will continue to grow. The team's not old enough to have a strong following of people like that. It's not a Green Bay or a Dallas where you have had the team forever and have had several generations grow up with it. I think the early success the Jaguars had probably spoiled us a little bit. I think Gene Smith and the organization are doing things the right way now and building the team for the future. To me it's exciting to watch and be a part of because I know it's not going to be long before something special happens."