On His First NFL Memory:
2009 was a long rookie year. It started without getting drafted, being signed as a FA by the NY Jets, getting cut and then signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad and switching from DE to TE.
I worked my tail off to learn as much as I could during that position change and every practice. I was activated to the active roster with two weeks to go in the 2009 season but was inactive vs the Patriots Week 16. Our top TE, Marcedes Lewis, got hurt midway through the game, which cleared the way for me to be active for the first time in Week 17 vs the Browns. Week 17, January 3, 2010, Middle of winter in Cleveland, OH… 14 degrees. What a way to make a debut in the NFL!
All week long our tight ends coach Mike Tice and Marcedes Lewis told me about the matchup and who I would be blocking throughout the game. Matt Roth, a veteran DE from Iowa who later became a teammate of mine in Jacksonville. Matt was what they like to call a “headbutter”. He used his head for everything. It posed a challenge for several people while going against him throughout his career. He definitely had my number once in my “welcome to the NFL moment”, however overall I think I played pretty well. It was a challenge to get your hands inside to block him when he always led with his head. Coach Tice and the TE group that year liked to use a term, “got man”, which referred to whether you blocked your guy he blocked you, as long as he didn’t make the play you got your man and did your job.
After regaining feeling in my hands during halftime we came out and put a drive together which we needed to do being down 13-3. Toward the end of the drive I was tasked with running an Arrow route, a beeline toward the sideline gaining a little depth as you go. David Garrard, our QB, threw the ball my way, I adjusted and made the catch. My first NFL catch, a measly 3-yard gain, but one I will never forget!
It had been such a long year from starting with the Jets as a DE and ending the season with the Jaguars as a TE. I made sure to keep the gloves from that game as I wasn’t sure if I’d stay a TE or make a switch to DE after the season. There were a lot of unknowns getting on that bus after losing to Cleveland 23-17. The one thing I did know though was I completed the childhood dream of playing in an NFL game, and the catch and having a good day blocking a veteran DE was just icing on the cake!