‘They’ll remember this forever’: Special day as Jaguars host Special Olympians

The Jaguars hosted a Special Olympics fantasy camp at TIAA Bank Field on Tuesday. (Justin Barney, News4JAX)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – They came, they signed, they tackled and they celebrated.

In between, there were so many smiles and memories that it was difficult to pick just one that stood out the most.

The Jaguars hosted quite a few area athletes during their Special Olympics Fantasy Camp on Tuesday afternoon at TIAA Bank Field, pulling out all the stops for their visitors.

Athletes had no idea that the Jaguars had an afternoon mapped out for them. When the Olympians and their families arrived to the stadium, they were directed to a locker room that was dressed up with black, gold and teal balloons.

Set up in those lockers were personalized jerseys for each Special Olympian, along with a variety of other Jacksonville merchandise.

That was just the beginning.

After slipping on their jerseys, each Special Olympian signed a one-day contract with the Jaguars. The Duuvalll chants would come later.

The Jaguars hosted quite a few area athletes during their Special Olympics Fantasy Camp on Tuesday afternoon at TIAA Bank Field, pulling out all the stops for their visitors.

“They’ll remember this forever,” said Zoe LoSasso, community engagement director for the Northeast Region of Florida. “How they felt special today, how they feel special every day and just how grateful they are to meet all the athletes today, to be on the field and just how much it really, really matters to them.”

That wasn’t it though.

Several Jaguars players, including first-round pick Devin Lloyd and third-round selection Chad Muma, were among a handful of camp headliners. They posed for photos in the locker room and then led Olympians to the field where stations were set up.

Lloyd was in charge of one of the most popular stations of the day — the touchdown celebration station. Lloyd showing players how to catch the ball, land in the padded pit and then spike the ball was a thing of beauty.

“I think it’s really special and honestly, I mean, me personally, you know, relying so much on my faith, I really think that this is what it’s about,” Lloyd said. “You know the people who dream of having opportunities and the blessings that we have. Just allowing me to be out here and share my time, allowing them to live out their dream, and allow them to remember this special moment that I know they’ll never forget.”

Jaguars cornerback Chris Claybrooks was the headliner at another station, challenging Special Olympians to score a touchdown on him. Every Olympian made it past Claybrooks, who called the experience of Tuesday “wonderful.” His 8-year-old, Chris Jr., was there to watch his father help out with the camp.

The most memorable thing for Claybrooks — when a Special Olympian scored a touchdown and then celebrated by doing a split.

“One dude hit a split on me. Out of nowhere so that surprised me,” Claybrooks said. “He had a splits on me, so that’s a surprise to me. Everybody came out here and just like laughed, everybody having fun, the splits really got me, ain’t going to lie, man. He got some dance moves on me.”

JR Lobinsky, a local Olympian who took gold in the pentathlon at the Special Olympics earlier this month in Orlando, said his day was unforgettable. The one thing Lobinsky said made his day stand out — the personalized jersey.

“It will have to be this jersey that I’m actually wearing right now,” Lobinsky said of the most memorable part of his day. “But also, to meet some of those NFL players, I mean you can never take an opportunity like that for granted whatsoever.”

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.