If I was given an opportunity to interview one player on the Jaguars roster, I would steer clear of the usual suspects like David Garrard or Maurice Jones-Drew. I would not focus on the defensive stalwarts like John Henderson or Rashean Mathis, either.
No, rather, I would gravitate to a player who is active in the community, entertaining, and genuinely humbled by his experience in the NFL. I would push the envelope and interview a long snapper. Yes, a long snapper.
Not just any long snapper.I'd interview Joey Z.
Long snapper and fan favorite Joe Zelenka has been with the Jaguars since 2000, making him one of the longest tenured veterans still on the roster, and one of the few remaining elements from the Coughlin era.
Each summer, as the Jaguars prepare for their upcoming season, a new candidate is trotted out on the practice field to push Zelenka. Each time, Zelenka's sent them packing, even before camp winds down.
During his time in Jacksonville, Zelenka has become one of the more popular players on the roster, developing a fan following large and loyal enough to warrant the formation of a fan club.
The Joey Z Fan Club has a global reach claiming fans on both sides of the Atlantic. That is not too shabby for a tight end who has spent his entire NFL career seeing the game upside down, between his knees.
If I was ever presented with an opportunity to pose a few questions to this popular Jaguar, I would jump at the chance.
The topics would range from the duration of his career here in Jacksonville to his desire to get more involved in the playbook.
Here are a few questions I would ask him:
BR: You're entering your eleventh year in the NFL. Did you ever expect to see your career go on for as long as it has?
BR: As the only long snapper in the NFL to have a global fan club, does this give you bragging rights over guys at the same position around the league who do not have such distinction?
BR: Have you ever taken the opportunity to play a little scoreboard with other long snappers, perhaps taunting them with your popularity to try to get inside their heads?
BR: Each year the team brings in a body that becomes the sacrificial lamb to provide you with some competition. Knowing your career is one bad snap away from potentially ending, how much motivation does competition provide you, or does the simple fact it could all end on one play keep you sufficiently focused?
BR: Having had the opportunity to watch the Jaguars during training camp since 2002, I have to wonder, how have you been able to deal with the rigors of such a test of endurance, especially since the kicking teams usually are forced to practice on the much hotter turf field the majority of the time?
BR: Have you ever asked the coaches to toss a trick play into the playbook for a fake punt where you're catching an actual pass to maintain your street cred as a tight end?
BR: Do you think the time has come to officially designate you as a long snapper and ditch the tight end label?
BR: Seriously, you put a good deal of effort into making sure that you remain at the top of your game. The attention to detail that is required for a long snapper to have a long and successful career has to put a lot of pressure on you. What do you do when you have the opportunity to get away from it all?
BR: As one of the final leftovers of the Coughlin era, you've seen more than your fair share of coaches and coordinators come and go. Is there one in particular that sticks out more than others during your time in Jacksonville?
BR: If you weren't able to enjoy a long and distinguished career in the NFL, what would you be doing today?
BR: When your NFL career does wind down, what kind of plans do you have for the future? You've dabbled in local media, and you've always done an outstanding job in front of the camera. Have you thought about pursuing this as a post-football career option? Or, will you follow other former Jaguar greats like Tony Boselli and Mark Brunell into the fast food business?
BR: You do a lot of charity work in the community including heavy involvement with charities such as Ronald McDonald House and Habijax, and are one of the more visible players on the team. How important is it to maintain that relationship with the fans, and to leverage that to help support causes or charities that you feel strongly about?
BR: As an avid outdoors man, how do you rank the hunters on the team?
BR: Do you have any fishing stories you would like to share?
BR: Tom Coughlin and Jack Del Rio have very different coaching styles. While Del Rio is widely considered a player’s coach, Coughlin was always viewed as a disciplinarian. The stories of Coughlin’s iron fist are legendary. Do you have any tales about Tom and his authoritarian ways?
BR: Since you've spent the bulk of your NFL career here in Jacksonville, how connected are you to the community? Will you continue to call the city home when your career comes to a close?
I have submitted these questions to the Jaguars to see if I can get answers from Joe Zelenka.
I will keep you posted on the result of my efforts.
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