JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When a coach and general manager start looking to build on the offensive and defensive lines, you often hear the phrase, "He can be a cornerstone there for the next decade," a lot. That rarely happens between injury, free agency and the vagaries of the NFL. Having more than 10 years in the league as a productive player is difficult.
Jaguars center Brad Meester not only met those goals, he by far exceeded them in his 14-year career.
Meester announced on Wednesday that he's retiring at the end of this season, making Sunday's game against Tennessee his final appearance at home.
It would be hard to overstate the positive effect Meester has had on the Jaguars throughout his career. Rarely injured, Meester holds the record for most consecutive starts at 92 and is currently tied for second in that category as well.
He's blocked for both Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones Drew, being a part of the offensive line that helped MJD to the rushing title three years ago.
He's played for ever one of the Jaguars head coaches, adapting to each of their styles with ease. "Its different," Brad told me after the Thursday night win over the Texans referring to Gus Bradley's coaching philosophy. "Way different, but it's working."
Along the way, different offensive line coaches and offensive coordinators have wanted different things out of their veteran center. One set wanted speed, so Brad came to camp well under 300 lbs. Another wanted power up front so he came in over 330 (and didn't like it).
Football fans know the center position is difficult, blending speed, quickness and toughness with a cerebral capacity to recognize defenses and make the appropriate line calls to combat them.
Although he started his career at guard (48 starts) after being the Jaguars second round draft pick, everybody knew he was the center of the future. It was easy to recognize that Meester had all of the qualities necessary to do that job and do it well.
He said after the Buffalo game last Sunday he stayed up late and thought about whether he might retire or not, and decided the time was right. "People don't realize what goes on in a locker room. And that's probably what I'll miss most. The time with the guys, before, during and after games, it's something special."
To a man, players say the same thing about Meester: He's the guy they looked to when they wanted to know how to act like a pro, on and off the field. He's exemplified what it means to be a professional athlete in his performance and his persona.
That's why they should put Brad in the Pride of the Jaguars as soon as possible. He's exactly what the Pride is about: professionalism, performance, hard work, and community standing. He's a guy the Jaguars can always be proud to say he wore their uniform.