JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars faithful who have been on the roller coaster ride the team has had since its inception a little over two decades ago have waited a long time for the success Jacksonville's NFL team is enjoying this season.
Their loyalty to the team hasn't wavered, partly because the players' faithfulness to the community has remained steadfast.
The skills and talent seen on the field is only part of the story for the hometown team.
"The Jaguars have always been great community supporters,” said longtime Jaguars fan Ed Burr.
The softer side of the professional athletes is seen daily by Burr and many others around Jacksonville.
And it could be one of the secrets to their success.
Burr said the team's dedication coupled with confidence and talent among the players added up to turn a so-so team into one with “super” potential.
"Sometimes the intangibles are what make a difference in a team sport like that,” Burr said. “And I think that at some point, they started believing it was possible. Sometimes when you believe it's possible, anything can happen."
Burr said he's seen the team's commitment to the community firsthand.
He said once Blake Bortles got to know his Monique Burr Foundation and how it works to protect children from abuse and bullying he was in, volunteering at schools and fundraisers.
"He's a gritty football player. You see him play tough on the field, and I think he has a real passion for helping his community and especially a passion for helping children,” Burr said.
He said Bortles has a huge heart.
“I think it's legitimate,” Burr said. “I think what you see with Blake is real.”
He said it's encouraging to see that genuine commitment in such a young professional. But he thinks it starts from the top down.
“I think that's instilled from the organization,” Burr said. “I think it's who he is. I think it's one of the reasons they were attracted to him to begin with. I think the organization encourages that.”
One of the team's three chaplains said he also believes the success the Jaguars are experiencing has everything to do with their selfless, altruistic nature.
He said the players recognize the others' skill sets and work to lift each other up toward victory.
"That's when you create a unit, a very powerful unit that moves together and wins together,” Jaguars Chaplain Father John Tetlow said. “And that's what I've seen happen. That's where we are right now, in my opinion."
Tetlow offers prayers and support for the players at home games and says Mass with them weekly.
"I watch these men get on their knees and pray,” he said.
He said faith and football go together now more than ever.
"Everybody's talking about this. Something's happened this season,” Tetlow said.
He said the players all believe in what they're doing.
And so do the fans.
He pointed to the fans' dedication in welcoming the winning team home after the victory last Sunday over the Steelers and filling the stadium for the last few home games. He said it all helped direct the Jaguars to victory
"There's no reason whatsoever that we can't win this game this weekend, because the momentum is there, of course, with the team, but also with the people who are cheering on the team,” Tetlow said. “It's all there, and the Holy Spirit, in my opinion, works through that whole process.”
He said their efforts in the community also make a difference.
"Most of them work with foundations and giving back to the community, touching the lives of young children who may not have fathers,” Tetlow said. “A lot of them are involved in things like that.”
Without them, he said, there would be a huge hold to fill.
“There would be a major void,” he said.
Burr said the city seems to have gone from an emerging city to one that could lead the pack, just like the team that bears city's name.
"Maybe they really are representative of the spirit of Jacksonville,” he said.
With the success the team is experiencing, coupled with what Burr described as strong city leadership, Jacksonville could be a Super Bowl city.