The newest member of the Jaguars defensive line was all smiles on Monday following his first day of practice, the first day anyone has been in pads.
“I really feel like it’s a blessing. I feel like [it’s] a dream come true.”
The Jaguars signed defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan following a slew of injuries and unexpected losses along the defensive line over the last few weeks. Jernigan, 27, is very familiar with the franchise, bouncing between Lake City and Jacksonville (Fla.) throughout his childhood. Never far from home, Jernigan played collegiality with the Florida State Seminoles.
“It was crazy because we had a Pop Warner team called the Justina Jaguars, right there across the street from our apartment complex,” Jernigan recalled while on a video conference call with local reporters in Jacksonville.
“I remember as I kid, I had a little fake Mark Brunell jersey. It was horrible, horrible looking, but I had the Mark Brunell jersey and I had the little fake helmet. My sister was in middle school and I would lie to my sister when she came home and be like, ‘Hey, the Justina Jaguars need helping cheerleading across the street or whatever.’ I would stuff my fake jersey with clothes and shoulder pads and all this crazy stuff. I always knew about the team.”
Jernigan’s homecoming will make for a welcomed addition to the team’s defensive line, especially after the losses the team has taken. Veterans defensive end Lerentee McCray and defensive tackle Al Woods opted out due to concerns regarding the coronavrius pandemic, second-year DT Dontavius Russell was placed on injured reserve and DL Aaron Lynch suddenly retired.
As such, Jernigan was quickly thrown into the fray. Not only was this his first day as a Jaguars defender, but it was the team’s first day in pads. It was clear there was a bit of an acclimation period Jernigan is going through, however, that should be expected. For Jernigan, he’s just taking it “day-by-day.”
“Listen, that Florida heat, you know what I mean that was definitely the first thing. Practice went well, great tempo. Guys out there taking care of each other. You definitely realize everyone’s out there practicing with a purpose. It’s definitely straight to business. I’m just ready to be a part of it. I was glad I was able to come out and start knocking the rust off a bit and getting acclimated to everything- the scheme, the climate, all that good stuff.”
Prior to inking a deal in Jacksonville, Jernigan was set to sign a deal with the Houston Texans, a deal that would fall through. Not wanting to live in the past, Jernigan declined to comment on the situation in Texas, opting to make the most of his situation in Jacksonville and giving expressing again, just how excited he is.
“I’m just blessed that the Jaguars, when they called me and gave me the opportunity, they kept their word. They made a promise and they followed through with it so I’m going to give this team everything I got. I’m going to give them everything I got. Hopefully, I can end my career right here in Jacksonville.”
Growing up a Jaguars fan, Jernigan is well-aware of the history the team has at defensive tackle. In the early 2000s, Jacksonville boasted two of the league’s best defensive tackles in Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. Now, Jernigan hopes to bring that type of dominance back to the city.
“I definitely used to tune in. That was the good old days- we have to get back to that.”
Seemingly pure coincidence, according to Jernigan, he now wears on of his idols’ jersey numbers, Henderson’s No. 98, perhaps a sign of things to come for the seventh-year defensive tackle.
“It was all coincidence, but Henderson and Stroud were my two favorite inside guys all-time, especially when they were together. They were dangerous.”
With the season set to start in just a few short weeks, Jernigan is looking forward to proving his worth, willing to do whatever it takes to make the team better.
“If they need me to come in and be a heavy run guy, I can make that happen, I can do that. If they need me to get to the quarterback, I feel like I have the ability to do both. All I need to really do is just prove to everyone that I’m ready for that.”
For now, the Jaguars will need to lean on Jernigan to become the player that he has been capable of being in the past.
“I’m definitely excited. I haven’t been this happy to play football in a long time. I haven’t been this happy in a long time.”