JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars opened Day 3 of the NFL draft by addressing the defensive line, taking tackle Jay Tufele out of Southern California with the first pick of the fourth round.
Tufele (6-2, 305 pounds) should move in to the defensive front rotation, an area that coach Urban Meyer said needs to be the team’s strength. Tufele didn’t play in 2020 due to opting out due to COVID-19 issues. His sister, Noreen, was seriously impacted by the virus, nearly dying after contracting it, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Tufele was solid when he did play in 2018-19, amassing 65 total tackles, 11 for loss and 7.5 sacks. Coach Urban Meyer recruited Tufele hard at Ohio State, but he wound up signing with USC. Tufele said that it didn’t work out then, but he considers Meyer family now.
“Oh today is the most special day in my life. Just the whole, life-changing, it’s everything,” he said. “From being a little kid and then especially with everything that’s happened it’s just a blessing. It’s a blessing and I’m so grateful, I’m so grateful.”
Tufele is the third straight draft choice of the Jaguars to have either opted out of the 2020 season or miss most of it due to injury. He said that he used that time to get mentally and physically stronger.
“I realized this morning, when I had a call with Coach Tosh [Lupoi]. And basically, he told me that he believes in me and he wants me — I’m his guy and he’s ready to get to work and he wants me. And for me to have a coach believe in me, to have that, it’s an honor and I’m so grateful,” Tufele said.
“And in all honesty, I just want to say, from the beginning, for Mr. Khan believing in me, to Trent Baalke, our GM and then also, Coach Urban. I mean, it’s such an experience that’s like no other and I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful to be here.”
The Jaguars focused on the secondary in the second day, taking cornerback Tyson Campbell in the second round and safety Andre Cisco in the third. Cisco missed all but two games with a torn ACL. Offensive tackle Walker Little missed his 2019 season with a knee injury and opted out of playing in 2020.