By: Dan Hancock (@danhancock1978)
April 21, 1995. Looking back, this date might not mean much to many people. More than 18 years has passed since date. To me, I look at this date in black and white and can only think that this date was four days after my 17th birthday and Man...I'm getting old. I tried to recall what was going on in my life back then, but I can honestly admit that I have no clue. Having done the research, I know it was a Friday. I didn't research this date just to identify the day of a meaningless date. I looked up to see what day Mark Brunell was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars. It appears that this trade was made the weekend of the 1995 NFL Draft. Mark had spent the past two seasons learning the position under the tutelage of Brett Favre. It was Mark's time to look for a starting gig. It seems that Brunell could just have easily gone to Philadelphia and spent time as an Eagle. Had that been the case, I would've never sat down to write this blog entry.
Even after the Draft that weekend, Mark was still only competing for a starting position. The inaugural Jaguars season was still more than four months away from opening kickoff. Mark Brunell was still a nameless roster spot on a nationally unknown franchise. Mark would later admit that he had to look up on a map to see where Jacksonville was when he signed with the Jaguars. Ultimately, Steve Beuerlein would win the starting spot on opening day, but that would not last. Mark would quickly replace Beuerlein and the Book of Mark would soon be written in Jacksonville.
I should also note that April 22, 1995 is also an important date in Jacksonville history. This was the date that Tony Boselli was drafted No. 2 overall in that year's draft. That weekend, it turns out, would be the most important weekend in the franchise's short history, next to the weekend in late November in 1993, when the City was awarded the franchise. I point to these dates not to recall a time of statistical greatness, winning percentages, and the building of Hall of Fame resumes. Yes, those were the good times for this franchise. It was more fun to be a fan then. Maybe my memory is scewed, because I was 17 and life, in general, seemed more fun. It was, though, a time of real leadership and strong character not only in the locker room and on the field, but in the community and throughout the city. If there is any doubt, why do we still continually point to these two names as the Jaguars greatest ambassadors? For the 1010XL audience, when was the last time you heard Prosser, Frangie, or Hicken, three guys who covered the team on air in the early years, only share anectdotes about their personal involvement with the team's dynamic duo? Boselli and Brunell were leaders in the Jacksonville community. Their good deeds were well known in a time before Twitter, Facebook, and all forms of social media.
I recently attended a presentation by Mark Brunell to his church's men's group. I had known for a long time of his faith and commitment to men's ministries. In April, I got to enjoy it firsthand. On my drive home, I thought long and hard about how I could bring Mark to my community, my church specifically, to share his message. After nearly four months of planning it, Mark spoke to nearly 500 guys yesterday at my church. Mark Brunell is a gentleman. He is a dynamic speaker. He has an extraordinary message. I think he touched every man in attendance in a way that football falls short. I won't attempt a stance on a soapbox, but I will say that Mark Brunell, and Tony Boselli, are what is right in sports. They "get it." Balance is needed in one's life. Good influences are needed to succeed. Mark Brunell was, and is, a great influence STILL on this franchise. I won't say that no one has stepped up to fill their shoes since they left. I'll skip a negative and will offer this positive: I hope that in 17 years, I can be somewhere with my son, who attended yesterday's event, and we'll talk about how Insert Player Here has picked up the torch and run away with it. Insert Player Here "gets it." I also hope that on that great day that we'll talk about which Jags Super Bowl victory was the sweetest.
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