It wasn’t easy for linebacker Devin Lloyd to sit and wait in the green room on Thursday evening, the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Though he entered the process with grounded expectations, the thought of “whatever happens, happens,” seeing others get their name called, and waiting for the phone to ring still brought some nerves and anxiousness.
That would change, though, when the Jacksonville Jaguars unexpectedly jumped back into the first round, 26 picks after making the first-overall selection. At No. 27 overall, Lloyd would be a Jaguar, a moment that will likely forever be etched in his memory, a time for celebration.
Still, it was a surprise that Jacksonville coveted the 23-year-old linebacker out of Utah, he explained during his introductory press conference on Saturday. After all, they didn’t do much overt homework, meeting with him just once at the scouting combine and talking minimally over the two months that followed. In the end, it didn’t matter, though, Lloyd was “home.”
“As soon as I saw it, I was ecstatic. I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ It was finally all of the emotions hitting you, so you knew at that point you were home,” said Lloyd, who was joined by his Mom, Roneyta in attendance at TIAA Bank Field.
“It can get nerve-racking for sure,” Lloyd said of waiting in the green room, “and I was one of those guys where I was coming in, I was like, ‘It’s not going to be that bad, just breathe and just wait and understand that God has got you.’ But when I was in there, I was just waiting, waiting, and wait a little bit more. Like I said, I was just finally ready to get that call.”
The Jaguars invested heavily in the play-making linebacker. To trade up from pick No. 33 to No. 27, they traded pick No. 33 and a fourth-round selection (pick No. 106) and a sixth-round selection (pick No. 180) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in order to take him.
That level of investment doesn’t come often, and especially not for a linebacker. But, Jacksonville feels like they got a gem in Lloyd, who ultimately was their top-rated LB on the board. Ultimately, Lloyd considers himself a football player first, and he will have success wherever defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell elects to put him.
“One thing I define myself as is a football player, so it doesn’t really matter where you put me, I’m going to go out, I’m going to be competitive and I’m going to have success,” Lloyd said.
“I pride myself on being able to play anything that you could ask a linebacker to play, coming off the edge, rushing the passer, man coverage, zone coverage, playing the run, whatever you could ask a linebacker to do.
“I pride myself on being able to do that at a high level and I prepared to be able to have success all over the field, so I’m watching film for pass rusher, I’m watching film for safeties. You have to be able to do it all, so, like I said, I’m excited for whatever I’m asked to do.”
He would finish his career at Utah with 150 solo tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks and five interceptions, including seven sacks and four interceptions in 2021. His ability to be an everything-player is coveted in the NFL.
But Lloyd is not just a football player, either. He’s a leader, which might be an understatement. He’s a person that anyone would follow, on or away from the gridiron. That much was made obvious during his final year at Utah; a year that saw both tragedy and triumph.
On Dec. 25th, 2020, Utah running back Ty Jordan was tragically killed due to an accidental gunshot. Jordan’s best friend, Aaron Lowe, who was a defensive back for Utah at the time was also tragically, fatally shot less than a year later on Sept. 26, 2021. Lowe donned No. 22 in honor of Jordan.
Lloyd was already the team’s most dedicated leader, but his leadership was amplified due to the tragedies the team, city and families had endured in just under a calendar year. Those leadership traits helped Utah earn its first Pac-12 championship, defeating Oregon 38-10.
Lloyd would go on to achieve some individual accolades, too, including First-team All-American, the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year, given to the Pac-12’s best defender, along with being named a First-team All-Pac 12 winner.
Those leadership qualities are part of why Lloyd was exactly what the Jaguars wanted to bring in. When asked about his role last season at Utah, Lloyd said he needed to just be the best leader he could be and to “really just bring everybody together.”
“Whenever we’re on the field or whenever we’re doing anything football related, it’s got to be focus, it’s got to be football related. And whenever we’re off the field and we’re not doing anything football, we have to be together, we have to be there for one another,” Lloyd said.
“That experience brought everybody closer, but it also made everybody lock in a little bit more and it was my job as a leader to make sure everybody stayed locked in and just understand what we had and the task at hand, what we’re trying to accomplish and how we were supposed to get there.”
That was a factor in the Jaguars’ draft plans this weekend. They wanted players that are young, energetic and full of high character that can become great leaders, both on the field but also within the community as they continue to be citizens in the city of Jacksonville, head coach Doug Pederson explained.
“We have a team full of guys like that and Devin [Lloyd] is just going to be a great addition to not only the linebacker room but I think to our team and to Jacksonville,” said Pederson on Saturday when asked about building the team based on character. “I talk a lot about how we handle our business off the football field as well with our guys and this is obviously no exception.”
Now, Lloyd will take a couple of weeks to prepare for something he’s dreamed of doing, playing in the National Football League. The Jaguars will host a mandatory minicamp later this month, a chance to finally get a look at what the young players might bring to the table, at least a brief introduction.
To Lloyd, getting drafted is a blessing, something that he knew he wanted to do ever since he began playing tackle football for the first time in eighth grade. For him, playing college football was a stepping stone to what he ultimately wanted to do. And now, he’s earned the opportunity to play at the highest level.
“Once I got to college, then it was the NFL, so kind of just in that order. But to being here and to be a Jag, to finally be home, it’s just a blessing,” said Lloyd. “I can’t really put it any way other than that just because, like I said, you dream of playing in the NFL and so to be in this position, I’m exactly where I want to be right now.”