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Remembering the first Jaguars training camp: ‘Tougher than cows’

If it wasn’t Hell, it sure was close.

Tony Boselli #71...
“And by the way, I don’t want anyone to have to go through that.”

Ah the memories.

While we all bask in the reflections and marketing that is 25 years of Jaguars football, there are some elements of the past which fail to invoke nostalgic roses and bunnies.

Defense exhibit A: training camp 1995.

Without the availability of the still-in-progress practice fields, the team decided to utilize a location outside of Florida in an effort to escape the heat. The University of Wisconsin campus in Stevens Point seemed like a good idea.

It’s Wisconsin. How hot can the Badger State possibly get compared to the oppressive summer of the Sunshine State?

According to US Climate Data, the average high temperature for the month of July in Stevens Point is 80 degrees. To say the weather was unseasonable for camp would be an understatement.

A heat wave ravaged parts of the Midwest that July and produced temperatures in the 100s and heat indexes in the high 120s. It started the day the Jaguars reported (July 10), and the worst of it lasted five days.

Per the Chicago Tribune, the heat killed an estimated 718 people in 10 states (including 85 in Wisconsin). The Wisconsin State Journal reported that on July 14, 850 cows in Wisconsin dairy herds died, and milk production dropped by 25%. Highways and road joints buckled. So did railroad tracks.

Coach Tom Coughlin, who is quoted as saying putting players in uncomfortable situations is part of his methodology in order to see what they are made of, did not bat an eye. Players reported. Players practiced. Tom was Tom.

Rookie first round offensive tackle Tony Boselli recalls just how bad it was.

[There] was a heat advisory. Keep all the animals inside. If you’re young or old, don’t go outside. Cows were dying. Yet the Jacksonville Jaguars and the 90 guys were out there twice a day for five hours a day in the heat and beating just the crap out of each other.

Mike Ryan, the Jaguars athletic trainer, had multiple issues to contend with. Beyond the heat and steady flow of injured players, Ryan fought the war of ice shortage. Stevens Point didn’t have ice tubs so the Jaguars were shuttling in ice for everything from chilled beverages to player rehab. This put both a pragmatic and economic strain on Ryan’s job.

We had guys almost every day go down with heat illness. And we were doing IVs faster than we could count.

Football operations were getting pissed because we going through so much ice. They kept fighting us. ‘You’re doing something wrong. You’re using too much ice.’ I had to write out a document to justify how much ice we used each day.

Thankfully there was something good to be taken from the experience.

The food.

Boselli remembers it as award worthy.

Whoever was the chef at Stevens Point, Wisconsin, should get an award. They should open a restaurant because they were outstanding.

Defensive end Jeff Lageman, brought over from the New York Jets, had suffered through side years Jets “dorm food”. For him, the food made up for the heat.

It was amazingly good. We had a chef. If you wanted something cooked, they would do that. I was gaining weight. Hardest training camp ever, and my fat ass is gaining weight because the food is so good.

ESPN’s Mike DiRocco details these and many other highlights (or are they lowlights) from that inaugural camp in this piece. An informative read that puts into perspective how the league has changed while giving Jaguars fans a taste of the franchises origins.