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Jaguars Top 20 “Florida Connections”

For this week’s Top 20, recognizing the Jaguars’ 20th anniversary, we’re looking at the Jaguars players and coaches who are associated with the state of Florida, one way or another. Some are from here, other’s played college football in the state but all have a Sunshine State connection.

Not hard to list Fred Taylor at #1. Fred is from Belle Glade and played his college ball at Florida. As a Jaguars #1 pick, he fulfilled just about every expectation as a Jaguar and, as most players, got a little bit of a raw deal at the end of his career when he was released in favor of Maurice Jones Drew. Nonetheless, Fred is still involved with the organization, hosting a pre game and halftime in-stadium show as well as participating in the post-game radio broadcast. And of course, Fred is in the Pride of the Jaguars.

At #2, Rashean Mathis easily qualifies. A star at Englewood High School, Mathis was slated to go to FSU but broke his leg as a senior and the Seminoles backed off his commitment. When Bethune Cookman hung in there, Rashean’s mother convinced him that was the right place to go. He was a dominant player at that level and is one of the most productive second round picks in the history of the franchise. He’s continued his career in Detroit and still lives here in the off-season.

Third is Blake Bortles. Despite his short tenure, he is from Orlando, played at UCF and was the Jaguars first round pick. He’s also stepped into the starting role and looks to be the quarterback the Jaguars can build on.

Leon Searcy’s spot at 4th might surprise some people but whenever you talk about the Jaguars teams of the 90’s and their playoff runs, every player points to Searcy as one of the additions to the team as a free agent that made a difference.

Greg Jones at 5 was easy. He’s a guy you could pencil in every year at his position and was probably underrated league-wide because he was the best fullback in the game. Good hands and a good runner as well, he was happy to block linebackers, linemen, safeties, whomever got in his way.

At 6 Mike Peterson might be a little too high. But signed as a free agent, he stepped in as the starter at middle linebacker and never left there. That is until he challenged Jack Del Rio once in a meeting and was unceremoniously dumped at the end of the season. He played well for the Falcons for a while after that.

Willie Jackson made an impact at wide receiver early in the Jaguars history so he’s in at seven. Plus as a Gator, he revved up the interest in the team early. Todd Fordham was one of the hardest working guys to ever wear the Jaguars uniform and is in at #8.

Nobody expected Quinn Gray to do much when he came to the team from FAMU. But called on to perform, Gray was meticulous in his preparation and got the most out of his opportunity.

Micah Ross is such a great athlete that he switched from basketball to football at JU and made the team as a free agent after only a short time on the field.

Being such a star in college could have given Denard Robinson a sense of entitlement as a professional but he’s worked as hard as anybody to adapt at this level. From an “offensive weapon” to a full time tailback, Robinson has figured out how to stay in the “pay for play” world.

Jonathan Cyprien went right from his position in college as a starter to the same spot in the pros. He was one of the early draftee’s in the Caldwell/Bradley era they were most excited about.

Jeremy Mincey’s spot at 13 could have been higher but something happened to him during the coaching shift and he couldn’t figure out how to continue his career here. He’s still productive in Dallas.

Reggie Nelson and Derrick Harvey at 14 and 15 could have been in the same spot as a tandem. Both first round picks that never got it done in Jacksonville. Harvey couldn’t figure out what his role was on defense and Nelson had never been asked to fit into a defensive scheme so as a professional he struggled early. He’s still playing in Cincinnati.

The last five guys are all recent additions to the Jaguars that have a Florida connection. It’s interesting that early on the team wasn’t too interested in drafting or signing Florida players, thinking that they didn’t need the PR boost and players elsewhere were just as talented. There was even a stretch from 2009-2012 that the Jaguars were the only one of the 32 teams in the NFL to not draft a player from the Southeastern Conference. That’s all changed with the SEC dominating college football and providing up flight talent. Ryan Davis, Allen Hurns, JT Thomas, Ace Sanders and Brandon Linder all have a chance to be big contributors to the Jaguars in the coming years.

Did we miss somebody? Who’s your number one? Send your ideas to sports@wjxt.com or on twitter #JagsTop20. We’ll let everybody know what you think on our weekly show, Jaguars Friday Night.

  • 1) Fred Taylor UF Belle Glade
  • 2) Rashean Mathis BCU Jax Englewood.
  • 3) Blake Bortles UCF Orlando
  • 4) Leon Searcy Miami Greg Jones FSU
  • 5) Greg Jones FSU
  • 6) Mike Peterson UF Gainesville
  • 7) Willie Jackson UF
  • 8) Todd Fordham FSU
  • 9) Quinn Gray FAMU Miami
  • 10) Micah Ross JU Jax
  • 11) Denard Robinson Deerfield Beach
  • 12) Jonathan Cyprien FIU Miami
  • 13) Jeremy Mincey UF
  • 14) Reggie Nelson UF Palm Bay
  • 15) Derrick Harvey UF
  • 16) Ryan Davis BCU Tampa
  • 17) Ace Sanders Bradenton
  • 18) Allen Hurns Miami Miami
  • 19) JT Thomas Ft. Lauderdale
  • 20) Brandon Linder St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Mike Smith Defensive Coordinator Daytona
  • Larry Smith FSU
  • Stacey Mack Orlando
  • Marlon McCree Orlando
  • Mike Pearson UF
  • Bobby McCray UF Miami
  • Terry Cousin Miami
  • Jamaal Fudge Jax
  • Dee Webb UF Jax
  • Mike Sims Walker UCF Orlando
  • George Selvie USF Pensacola