Thursday, May 8th, down at Everbank Field was a night that signified something.
It signaled the start of something new.
It renewed hope in the minds of many Jaguar fans that the treacherous years of the past will finally be coming to an end in the next year or so. For those that have kept faith through the process, this night was more of a rejuvenation of faith rather than a newfound faith.
The party down at the stadium started at 6:00 p.m. and fans were not shy to start piling in shortly there after. There were a lot of festivities to take part in including a putting challenge, QB challenge and other skills games. As the clock slowly ticked past 7:00 p.m., many fans started gravitating toward the three big video boards that were set up to broadcast the draft live.
The clock wore on and soon enough the anticipation that had been building up over the extra two weeks to this years draft was about to be put to rest and the anticipation was to turn into reality. 8 o’clock struck and Commissioner Goodell stepped to the podium with the ringing of boo’s raining in from the crowd as happens every year. The fans at the draft party were trying to get a good view from any angle possible as Goodell opened up the 2014 NFL Draft.
While the crowd was silent during the first two picks, there were no surprises as the two players anticipated to be drafted were indeed off the board in the first 20 minutes. The third overall pick however was a different story.
A silence took over the crowd as if a 3-point shot at the buzzer in game seven had just been put up to win the NBA Finals. While this was the exact opposite of the NBA Finals with this event being at the beginning of the NFL season, the feeling was very comparable. The general consensus throughout the crowd was it would be Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack, Jake Matthews or possibly Johnny Manziel. What came next is where the draft party turned into a social media frenzy.
The commissioner stepped to the stage, card in hand, and read from the card, “ With the 3rd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select…”
The crowd was so quiet it seemed as if you could hear the smallest tide splashing up against the banks of the St. Johns River no more than a few football fields away. Many Jaguar fans knew what was said next could be the start to a new direction for a long time for the franchise. So many years of agony and the same old thing, the same old team, people were ready for a change.
To finish the sentence above, the Commissioner said the name,”…Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida.”
The majority of the crowd was a little disappointed, a few understanding fans that knew what was needed to succeed in the NFL were indifferent, and then a group of eight to 10 UCF fans were ecstatic. Needless to say however, everyone was shocked. While some were happier than others, many fans did come to realize that GM Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus haven’t led the team down a wrong road yet and almost everyone began to support their decision and the new quarterback.
Much chatter was heard from the crowd, things such as,”…Manziel will be better” or “Watkins should have been the pick” definitely understandable arguments but the decision had been made and there was no going back. Caldwell and Bradley then came out to talk to the fans and reassured everyone that this was the guy of the future and to trust their judgment.
Then they explained why they were so quiet about Bortles before the draft, saying they didn’t want word to get out and risk a team trading up in front of them. After this, many fans began to pile out and go home to wait for the next two days of the draft, while some stayed and watched a few more picks until the TV’s were turned off.
While the Bortles pick was not necessarily the sexy pick, in terms of the future it seemed like the right pick. The night concluded and again it was another successful draft party put on by team representatives and PR members.
This was an event that definitely brought a lot of excitement back for the season as it was the first event of the season where a lot of the fans could get together and interact. The excitement is unreal and the thought of a “Duval Takeover” has gone from just a slogan on a shirt to a reality that has just recently began.
Follow Justin on Twitter @Cover32_Justin.