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Duval Til’ We Die

Duval County, Florida, has a great deal of heart. And it’s through this county and the city of Jacksonville, a passion birthed within me. Jacksonville, Florida is where I am from.

JagsBucs20112 by Excel23 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Duval Til’ We Die


Estimated Reading Time: 9 Minutes

Duval County, Florida, holds all of Jacksonville in its entirety- by the way, Jacksonville is the largest city in the Continental US. We have a great deal of heart in this city. And it’s through this city, a passion birthed within me. Jacksonville, Florida is where I am from. It is where I was raised. It is where my passion for professional sports was cultivated. I know what you are thinking, “Jacksonville? Really?”

Yes, Really. I’ll explain the tough course I had to face in my mission to become a football fanatic. Also, maybe it will shed some light into what Jacksonville really is, sometimes the picture is painted a little different depending on the artist.

When you look at Jacksonville on the map, or have ever been to Jacksonville, I’m sure the thought ‘Southern Georgia’ comes to mind. We have a different accent from the rest of the state, geographically we are right next to Georgia, we enjoy BBQ and sweet tea and we have a diverse music community (unfortunately a majority of the county sides with the Country genre). We are different from the rest of the state. We don’t harbor snowbirds that fly further south for the winter and water down the sweet tea. We are not a Caribbean type of feel like the West Palm’s and Miami’s of the state. We have a Southern Charm meets Beach Community vibe with urban areas in between. We are just different, and we like it that way.

So yeah, I guess I can understand why there is some confusion as to how Jacksonville would be a place cultivating a professional sports passion. I mean there is nothing in the previous paragraph that says anything about sports. However, don’t let the small-town feel fool you. We are a passionate bunch. There is something special about our situation, not many NFL fans can say they are the first-generation fans of their team. I have that honor, I am a first-generation Jacksonville Jaguar fanatic. Being able to witness my city awarded a franchise and to grow up watching a franchise go through good and bad situations has helped my fanhood mature at a quicker rate than your average enthusiast. My kids will be a (hopefully) 2nd generation of Jaguars. The only other teams that can relate to our situation would be Carolina Panthers and let’s be honest they don’t have the swagger our fans have. The only thing the Panthers have is Bojangles and yes, I do enjoy a Bo-berry biscuit every now and again.

Although, we may not have a fast-food restaurant to pull our passion from, we have each other. We have formed groups like the Bold City Brigade and Teal Street Hooligans who circle up to shotgun beers rather than chomp chicken. Bold City Brigade was established in 2012 and Teal Street Hooligans were not far off from that mark, and if you know anything about the Jags, these were dark times. The team went 5-11 in 2011 and the worst record in franchise history at 2-14 in 2012. Dark times indeed, still passion was thick in the city and from that passion these two great groups emerged. That is fanatical, and if you don’t find that passionate, I dare you to walk by the Hooligans wearing the opposite jersey. Our city was one of the last cities you would expect to get a NFL Franchise- yet here we are. Our team, to this day, is one of the last teams you would expect to be in the hunt for the most prized trophy in all American sports – the Lombardi trophy. Yet here we are, right in the thick of it all.

Thank you, Wayne and Delores Weaver (Original Owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars), for changing my life. I remember the day in 1993 when Jacksonville was awarded the 30th franchise in the NFL(It’s actually one of my earliest memories). I remember drafting Tony Boselli with our first ever pick, Fred Taylor in the next draft (two players who are Hall of Fame nominees this year) I remember the first season in 1995 (I just got chills- I was 6 years old). We traded for Mark Brunell, picked up Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell in free agency, drafted a great defense and went out and won games just one year after our first season. Shocked the world twice in the playoffs in 1996, and continued domination for a few more years. However, Nothing to show for it other than a passionate fan base.

Dark Times in Duval County

By 2001 the team was lost, I was lost. After all, the Jags literally were my life as a 12-year-old. We made poor choices as a franchise and letting go of Tom Coughlin was probably the worst of them all. From there we signed Jack Del Rio as our Head Coach. Del Rio achieved minimal success but ultimately was not a late-season coach- repeatedly falling apart towards the end of the season. The vibe around Jacksonville was at an all-time franchise low. We hit rock bottom. We were the laughing stock of the league and eventually became the doormat for any national writer or media head.

From 2007 until recently, we as a franchise were God awful. I mean bag-on-the-head awful, Mike Mularkey to Gus Bradley awful, David Garrard was our best QB for a decade awful. Things around the organization and Jacksonville were gloomy. It was hard to picture success and for a bit, I was trying to find a reason for our decade of distress… maybe a curse, or maybe a plot to move the team to a bigger market. It just seemed impossible to be this, well, trash. Excuse my language but it wasn’t good.

Jaguars Game by Joe Shlabotnik by CC BY 2.0

In 2009 we blacked out seven of our eight home games. National media ate us alive once again. Moving rumors started, people were already calling us the “LA Jaguars”. I fought those rumors tooth and nail. The thought of the Jaguars leaving was one rumor that hurt me as a fanatic. Anytime this was brought to the conversation, I legitimately had a worrisome feeling while trying to stand strong with my faithful opinion. On one hand, there is no way the Jags would ever leave.

On the other hand, we were an easy target. Small town feel, barely a city. National media sure likes to pick its victim and run with it. Never mind that in the next 2010 season the Tampa Bay Bucs as well as the Oakland Raiders each blacked out seven of their own home games and not one peep about them relocating (who’s laughing now?). This is fanatical depression, to be so passionate about something but to have it questioned in your face every single day.

Once again, the Jags faithful banded together and out of this dark time we became stronger. It’s who we are. We have fighters among our people, we don’t give up and we did not lose faith. Even as a young team we understand how the NFL works, things happen in cycles, even if you are the Browns. After all that attention about black outs from national media the fans responded and haven’t blacked out a game since. Somehow, that doesn’t stop people from pointing to 2009.

Kismet

In comes the new era, a breath of fresh air donning a very stylish mustache and ushered in on his private yacht famously known as Kismet. Kismet is a synonym for destiny or fate and on January 4th, 2012 Jacksonville learned the fate of their franchise was in sole possession of Shad Khan, the new owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Filled with promises to keep the team in its rightful home Mr. Khan brought more to the city than Kismet. He brought an elevated level of swag. The feelings and emotion in Jacksonville was immediately different, like the flip of a light switch. Shad knew how to get the ball rolling. He brought a rock star mentality to this town that so desperately needed a national figure.

Speaking of being a national figure, Mr. Khan not only cruised into Jacksonville on January 4th, 2012, he also sailed into a role as the first minority owner of an NFL franchise. Shahid Khan is the American dream personified. He is an immigrant from Pakistan who came to America as a teenage boy looking to better his life and his families. Boy did he do that, he started his American life as a dishwasher and worked his way through College at the University of Illinois, eventually purchasing a mom and pop auto parts manufacturer and turned it into a multi-billion dollar business. If you drive a car, odds are you are sporting one of his bumpers.

Shad’s continued investment in the city and his constant improvement in the Jaguars has allowed a little bit of relief off the shoulders of fans, changing the confidence of the team and the city alike. Sure, Shad has made his mistakes with the likes of Mike Mularkey and Gus Bradley, but he has overcome those to bring us to the place we are today.

Hiring Dave Caldwell as general manager from the Atlanta Falcons was a veteran move from a rookie owner. Dave Caldwell has continued to place more talent on this team than we ever have seen in our franchise history. Mularkey and Bradley did a great job at doing the worst with the talented rosters they were given. After Gus Bradley’s 5 years of failure here in Jacksonville, Shad decided to stick with in-house Coach Doug Marrone.

Coach Marrone is a blue-collar guy who does not grab headlines. Perfect for the city of Jacksonville and perfect to establish and continue a winning tradition. Shad also decided to instill more tradition into this culture by bringing back the Godfather himself Tom Coughlin to be the Executive Vice President of Football Operations.

The combination of Coughlin and Caldwell in the front office is dynamic, bringing an old school feel to the modern day athlete. Now we have players on our team who don’t take any crap from the media (Jalen Ramsey). We have bonafide leaders like Telvin Smith, Calais Campbell, Leonard Fournette and Blake Bortles. We have sleepers like Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue, and Dante Fowler and the only reason they are sleepers is because they play for the city of Jacksonville.

Duval County is a secret, but I don’t think it will be a secret much longer. In fact, Jacksonville itself is going international through the Jaguars. People may laugh at our deal in London and Wembley stadium but I guarantee you that the city of Jacksonville and the Jaguars organization will be leaders in the push for international markets. Not in the sense of moving but more in the sense of connectivity and expanding the NFL.

Just look at some of the Jaguars social media fan pages and you will see the international following, people in Duval are connecting and befriending fans across the pond through connections on social media. I’m not even going to speak about the financial benefits we are enjoying, and they are great by the way. We are becoming innovative and trendsetting making our footprint in the UK. Who knew Jacksonville would go from smalltown franchise to international darlings in a matter of 6 years. Our destiny and fate are truly as far as the Kismet will take Shad Khan, and to that there are not many limitations.

Kismet by mattbuck is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The rest of the NFL world will always count us out. We as fans thrive on the national media constantly making a joke out of our team, our city, our people and our waffle houses. Our players take the lack of attention and poor placed jokes and use it as motivation. The players know the truth, they see it daily. We as fans and myself as a fanatic have a chip on our shoulders.

Much like Maurice Jones-Drew wore 32 for the fact that 32 teams passed on him, we know that 31 teams still look down on us.  The passion has been reignited throughout the city of Jacksonville. The Jags were born in Duval in 1993, and so was Tyler Williams the football fanatic. Now and forever on, its Duval Til’ We Die. DDDUUUVVVAAALLL!

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Nancy Pyatt

    October 1, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    An awesome article! Well stated! I love your passion! This should be sent to Sports Illustrated.

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