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Jaguars' Andrew Wingard Details Extension: 'It's Just An Awesome Fit For Me'

Speaking with Jaguar Report on Wednesday, Jaguars' safety Andrew Wingard explained why returning to the Jaguars was at the top of his wish list.

When Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andrew Wingard first signed with the franchise as an undrafted free agent in 2019, he never knew it would lead him to this.

"I was talking to my mom this morning, I was like, 'Can you believe it? Like, I may end up spending eight years of my career in Jacksonville'" Wingard told Jaguar Report in a phone interview on Wednesday, the same day his new three-year extension with the Jaguars was announced. 

In signing the $9.6 million ($6 million guaranteed) deal, Wingard became the latest Jaguars success story. Undrafted out of Wyoming and a two-star recruit out of high school, Wingard has defeated every obstacle on his way toward a big payday, doing so under three different coaching staffs and front offices. 

"It means a lot. It's really a testament to hard work and just believing in yourself and also at the same time, I have a ton of people to thank around me, good people, good coaches," Wingard said. "And it's just a blessing and I'm so thankful."

Wingard has appeared in 63 games for the Jaguars over the last four years, including 24 starts. Wingard has started at least one game in every season, starting two games as a rookie before four in 2020, 15 in 2021, and three last year.

Wingard spent last year as the Jaguars' No. 3 safety behind Andre Cisco and Rayshawn Jenkins, recording 37 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception, and one forced fumble vs. the Baltimore Ravens that helped secure the Jaguars the key mid-season victory. 

"It's just cool looking back from, the team I started on to the team I'm at now," Wingard said. "It's like, you know, I was obviously one of the guys on that team that kind of had that 'It' factor, but then for this new regime to come in and bring like-minded guys into the building and now see the fruits of our labor pay off, and hopefully build more around it, it's super validating and it's a cool feeling."

2022 turned out to be the most successful Jaguars season since 2017, with the Jaguars winning the AFC South with a 9-8 record and advancing to the AFC Divisional Round in the playoffs. For Wingard, who had been on the Jaguars' one-win team in 2020 and their three-win team in 2021, it was the reward at the long end of a journey filled with hard work. 

"It's super cool. Because at some point, it's hard to walk by faith, you know. It's hard seeing what's going on around you, seeing multiple, you know, number one overall picks, two years in a row, and kind of just being in the building and seeing the dysfunction," Wingard said. 

"But having that little light in the tunnel in your heart saying 'this can be turned around if we get the right guys.' And then to just see how it all unfolds where the right guys come into the building and stuff like that. And things get turned around. It's like, you know, three years ago, you would have said I'm a crazy man to say that the Jaguars would be playing in the divisional round and losing to the Super Bowl champions by a touchdown. You'd be like, you're a madman. But at the same time, all it takes is belief. And I think that's the biggest thing that got turned around when Doug came in, and we got guys coming in and Trevor elevating his game. It's like, all it took was a little bit of belief. And that's the coolest part to me." 

It is under head coach Doug Pederson's guidance that Wingard became one of the most important voices in the locker room. Well-liked by all and seen as one of the hardest workers on the team as well as a special teams lynchpin, Wingard has earned respect inside the walls of TIAA Bank Field. 

Now that Wingard is locked in for the next several years with a coaching staff that promotes his ability to use his voice, it is clear he is just starting as a core leader of the Jaguars. 

"Yeah, it means a lot and it's good influence. It's good knowing that coaches see you for what you are," Wingard said. 

"And tthen at the same time, you respect the hell out of coaches like Doug, who give you a platform to be yourself and go and ball out yet at the same time, you know, being an influence in that locker room and lead and kind of feed off each other and try to kind of turn some things that Doug say and kind of make it more relatable to guys in the locker room and just kind of lead by example, so we can see we can all kind of reach our end goals and stuff like that. So it's super cool. You know, love Doug, love Trent. Love all the guys in the coaching staff and it's just an awesome fit for me.

Wingard had other options this offseason. He agreed to terms with the Jaguars on the second day of free agency, and other teams were undoubtedly approaching him with the idea of him becoming an important piece of their locker rooms, just as he did in Jacksonville.

But Wingard always had the Jaguars as his preference. For him, the chance to finish out what he helped started outweighed everything else. 

"It was 100%," Wingard said when asked if returning to Jacksonville was always his top option. 

"I had a lot of good interest, a lot of good offers stuff like that. And eventually, in my heart, I was like, I want to be in Jacksonville, I want to go win games with these guys and build something special. And, like I said, it's just, it's such a blessing to be back in Jacksonville. I can't wait."

Now comes the hard part. 

Wingard has seen the darkest of the dark ages in Jacksonville. He has seen one-win seasons, three-quarterback teams, and the Urban Meyer debacle. 

But now, he will see the Jaguars do more than just turn the corner that they did last year. Now, he will have a front-row seat to the Jaguars attempt to turn their year of success into long-term, sustained winning football.

"Yeah, you know, we always talked about building culture, but I don't think building a culture stops. You're always trying to build and I think that's going to be the most important part for us," Wingard said. "It's like, okay, now, if we want to be a consistent playoff team and stuff like that, we got to do it, we got to win our home games, we got to steal a couple on the road. And we kind of just kind of got to build that system, kind of, you know, New England-eqsue where it's like you know what you're gonna get from these guys. And, you know, there's a little pressure when you talk about that stuff. And I think that's a good part. 

"And I think that's what Doug wants us to have. Doug wants us to have that sense of urgency. And I think there's your answer right there. It's a sense of urgency. If you're gonna be the big dog on the block, you gotta be prepared and you got to prepare, you got to put in the work, you got to go out to practice and you got to do what Super Bowl, playoff-caliber teams would do. And it's gonna take hard work. It's not going to be pretty, it's not going to be perfect. It never is. But you know, keeping that resolve and sticking together is going to be the most important part."