‘This is their day’: Jaguars treat Special Olympians to unforgettable time

Former Jaguars cornerback Drayton Florence watches as Megan Bell hits a tackling cone during a Special Olympics Fantasy Camp at Flex Field on Friday. (Justin Barney, News4Jax)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Chest bumps and high fives. Duval chants and smiles.

Lots and lots of smiles.

The Jaguars hosted more than three dozen local Special Olympians on Friday at the team’s fantasy camp inside Flex Field, treating athletes and their families to an unforgettable morning inside the team’s practice facility.

The Special Olympians loved it. Former Jaguars players during instructors for the day probably enjoyed it even more.

“It’s all about the smiles and the high fives and just making those kids, boys and girls, feel special. This is their day so we’re just out here to encourage them,” said former Jaguars cornerback Drayton Florence. “Everybody’s got high level, high energy, and seeing the parents out here interacting as well, just feels good.”

Megan Bell, 30, said the day was memorable for multiple reasons. She had a chance to see numerous friends of hers at the event and got the opportunity to attempt different football drills that the Jaguars had set up for campers.

That included trying to throw a football through a small opening after running over padded hurdles. Bell said she felt good about being able to grip the football and fire it through the opening.

“Probably confidence in myself,” Bell said of her memorable Friday.

Former Jaguars linebacker Lonnie Marts said the athletes’ attitudes make it an easy day to be a part of.

“This is great, this is great. I actually have fun with this because I don’t have to worry about trying to coach somebody to do something right,” he said. “I am coaching kids and adults to do what they love to do. And so, all I got to do is keep saying the same thing over and over again, and they’re like ‘hey, great I’ll keep trying to.’ No frustration. They’re just excited about being here so makes it easy for me.”

Florence only spent one season with the Jaguars but remains very active in the local community. He said that his first experience volunteering with the Special Olympics came in 1988 in Tampa and that experience has stuck with him until this day.

So, Florence was grateful for the opportunity to join other Jaguars alumni like Paul Frase, Mike Hollis, Marts and Brad Nortman on Friday to help coach individual stations for the Special Olympians.

“I had no idea what the Special Olympics was all about [when he first volunteered for it],” Florence said. “So, for me to come back out here and bring my son and let him get a taste of it, it’s a good, humbling experience and it brings back a lot of memories.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.