On November 30, 1993, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped to a podium in Rosemont, Ill., and announced that the city of Jacksonville had been awarded the league’s 30th franchise.
The announcement stunned the NFL and the sports nation. At the same time, the news marked not only the culmination of many big dreams – and a long, ongoing effort around the city – but the start of the team’s 20-year history.
The city of Jacksonville long had pursued the NFL, having talked potential relocation with franchises such as the Colts, Cardinals, Saints, Oilers, Falcons and Patriots through a decade and a half of near-misses and disappointment. Beginning in the early 1990s, the city turned its focus to landing an expansion franchise, a movement with its roots in key city and civic leaders and one that became a real possibility with shoe magnate named Wayne Weaver joining the initiative.
In late 1993, the NFL awarded Charlotte, N.C., the 29th franchise. A month later, with Weaver as the majority owner and with few around the nation suspecting the news, the group realized a dream, being awarded the 30th team over St. Louis, Memphis and Baltimore.
The effort had paid off. The city celebrated. The dream had been realized.
The future was yet to come.