JACKSONVILLE – This makes sense now. Perfect sense.
Not that it didn’t before. Not that you didn’t get a clear idea from Gus Bradley and David Caldwell on Thursday night why they considered Luke Joeckel the ideal player to be the first draft selection in the new Jaguars’ new era, the first big step in a new direction.
But as of Friday...
Well, as of Friday Joeckel was introduced to Jacksonville – to the Jacksonville media, anyway. So, on Friday, we got our first chance hear from him directly, to hear from his family, to hear his story, to watch him interact, to get a feel for the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft beyond a kid smiling for cameras on a New York City stage.
On Friday, we saw him up close.
If you’re a Jaguars fan, it was easy to like what you saw, what you heard. It was easy to see why this was an easy selection.
It became really easy when Joeckel spoke Friday about growing up with his twin brother, Matt. Specifically, it became easiest when he was talking about the knock-down, drag-out, disturb-the-family-in-the-next-room fights of which there were too many to count.
“I can say I’ve never lost a fight to him in my entire life, but the whole Joeckel family is a competitive family,” Joeckel, an offensive tackle from Texas A&M, said with a smile at an introductory press conference Friday afternoon at EverBank Field.
“Competition is big for me.”
Really? *Competition is big for me?*
Could a quote get more perfect, more symbolic?
“The central theme of our organization is competition,” Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said. “We’re looking for guys who really love football, and who are extremely competitive. We’re going to build our team in that fashion. I think Luke represents that perfectly.”
Two, he plays a position of need. Joeckel is expected to start on the right side of the offensive line, and his presence figures to improve the pass protection immediately.
You can also focus on temperament, and Joeckel from all indications has exactly what you want – not just from an offensive lineman, but from a player expected to be a cornerstone. You draft a guy at No. 2, and that’s what he’s expected to be – not just good, but elite; not just a starter, but an eventual Pro Bowl selection. You have to work to do that, to be motivated beyond a paycheck.
Joeckel gave good indication Friday that won’t be an issue.
There were, Joeckel admitted Friday, a few minutes of disappointment when Kansas City selected Eric Fisher – a left tackle from Central Michigan – No. 1 overall Thursday. He said that disappointment disappeared when Caldwell called. He said he absolutely believes the Jaguars are the best spot for him, but he also said he didn’t want to entirely forget draft night.
“Having another tackle selected first puts a chip on my shoulder,” Joeckel said. “He’s a good player and all, but I’m ready to go prove Kansas City wrong.”
Joeckel, too, was asked Friday about pre-draft reports he lacked “nastiness.” He said he never quite grasped that theory, particularly considering the pride he took of being part of a run-blocking-oriented scheme his first two years of college.
“When people question my nastiness, it’s like they’re questioning my manhood,” he said. “I always pride myself on being a nasty player.”
But, in the end, an introductory story on Joeckel must focus on family.
His family – mother Reecanne, father Dave, sister Sarah, brothers Matt and David -- was at the draft in New York Thursday and flew to Jacksonville on Owner Shad Khan’s plane Friday morning. At Friday’s press conference, a main storyline was how Luke and Matt – now a quarterback at Texas A&M – grew up playing football, being coached by their father, Dave, early. The pair started similarly sized, and in middle school, each played quarterback. Luke grew out of the position by seventh grade, first playing tight end because he wanted to touch the ball, then moving to left tackle because he could help the team most there.
It wasn’t a move Luke regretted long.
“I’m an offensive lineman at heart,” Joeckel said. “It’s the best position for competition. That’s why I love it.”
But mostly, the introductory story must focus on the fights, because Luke Joeckel said somewhere deep down, those fights are a big reason he was here Friday.
“We fought over that third Twinkie,” Luke said, laughing. “It was over some of the stupidest stuff. We’d fight and there’d be blood, bruises and all of that and then five minutes later we’re best friends again. We fought all the time. That’s why I’m so competitive.”
When the worst fights occurred, Sarah was sent in to break them up. The reason was simple. The boys knew better than to hit girls. Still, this wasn’t a case of Sarah demurely “asking” the brothers to stop.
“She’d just come in swinging,” Luke said. “She’d come in hitting us in the face and all of that.”
“To this day, I’m still scared of her,” he said, not smiling as much as you might expect.
That was the sort of day it was early at EverBank Field. It was a day for stories, for getting to know the first-round draft pick, for getting to know the player Bradley and Caldwell believed worthy of being the first significant player added to the core of the franchise.
Early in the press conference, before the focus moved to Joeckel’s family and their story, Joeckel sat on a podium with Khan on one side and Bradley and Caldwell on the other. The Head Coach and the General Manager had a long day ahead, with Rounds 2-7 still waiting, but for that moment, they had the look of two men pleased with the first major decision.
After seeing Joeckel up close Friday, it was easy to see why.