Anyone who has watched a Jacksonville Jaguars game in the last several years could point out who the leaders of the team are. The voices that could never be ignored. The players whose passion drives the locker room each and every week.
Among those leaders whose leadership is most evident has always been linebacker Myles Jack. He has often been the emotional voice and heartbeat of the defense; the lone constant and carryover in what has been a sea of change.
He came to the team during the end of the Gus Bradley era, was on the 2017 squad, and came out on the other end of the Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone regimes still a Jaguar, something most players during that span can't say.
For a franchise that is now hitting the reset button under Urban Meyer, there are few players who are as key to the rebuild in Jacksonville as Jack. And few people understand this better than Jim Mora Jr., whose history with Jack goes even further than when he was his head coach at UCLA.
"I actually knew Myles when he was a youngster. We both lived in Georgia in the same neighborhood together when I was a head coach of the Falcons. And then we happened to move to Seattle at about the same time," Mora told Jaguar Report.
"And so he was playing youth league football. My son, my middle son, Ryder, and his brother actually played on teams together. So I used to see Myles all the time when he was a kid. It was fun to watch him develop. You know, he went back and forth between the Seattle area and Georgia through his high school years. [He] ended up at a great school called Bellevue in the Seattle area and was just a tremendous player."
Jack's accolades following high school are eye-popping. The former four-star recruit committed to UCLA and became an immediate star. Jack spent time at both linebacker and running back as a true freshman, routinely making impact plays on both sides of the ball and having a two-way impact that few players are able to have.
As a result, Jack was named both the Pac-12 Conference Offensive and Defensive Freshman Player of the Year. He was also a second-team All-Conference linebacker selection as voted upon by coaches, a reflection of a dominant true freshman season that simply doesn't come around very often.
As Mora explained it, Jack was simply a different breed. He made plays that few defenders could make because he is a rare athlete, which has translated directly to the NFL.
"From day one, he just showed a unique athletic ability. There's a lot of great athletes out there but there's very few with his size, his physical nature, his stature, his speed, his quickness, his change of direction, and his athletic arrogance; his belief that he can do anything," Mora said.
"In practice, usually the running backs go against the linebackers in one on one drills. Well, Myles would eat every running back or tight end alive. So we had him go with the corners. So in one on one drills where receivers are running routes against defensive backs, Myles was always playing corner. Not playing linebacker, not playing safety. Playing corner. That's how physically gifted he was."
These types of physical gifts have been on full display in Jacksonville since Myles Jack was drafted with the No. 36 overall pick. Jack has become a key cog in Jacksonville's franchise since then, appearing in 73 games with 67 starts, making several huge plays in the 2017 playoffs (his former teammates still believe he was down!), being named a team captain twice, and playing every single linebacker position.
The Jaguars traded up to secure Jack in the 2016 NFL Draft after he fell to the second round due to concerns over his knee (Jack has missed only seven games in his career). After several years of strong play, Jack was given a four-year, $57 million contract extension with $33 million guaranteed, with the Jaguars opting to sign him then-defenders Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue.
Jacksonville's belief in Jack's talent has paid off. Despite the 1-15 record the Jaguars posted last season, Jack truly had a Pro Bowl-type season with a career-high 118 tackles, six tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, one interception, and five pass deflections. Now, there are few defenders who are more important to what Meyer will transform Jacksonville's franchise into than Jack.
"I really don't believe there's anything he can't do," Mora said. "I think he could be a great NFL running back. I don't think there's any desire on his part to take those hits. You know, I think you could line him up on just about any tight end in the league and he could probably fare pretty well. And I think that right now is a trait that everyone's looking for, because these tight ends in the league are just tearing people apart. But he can deploy with a tight end and go out and cover them in space.
"You know, he's so unique. He's got that compact body. He's got amazing change of direction, quickness, suddenness, burst, speed. But above all, all of those things, those are great traits, but it's his mindset to me that sets him apart."
Just how valuable can Jack be to a Jaguars franchise that will now be turned into a direction it has never quite seen before? As Mora explained, Jack can be a key voice for a Jaguars locker room undergoing a massive change. He can be leaned on by Meyer and his staff.
Jack is one of the few veterans who has been with the franchise for several seasons, with only three other current Jaguars having longer tenures (Tyler Shatley, Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann). He is also already a proven leader in the locker room and one of the best players on the roster.
All in all, Jack is simply rare. There haven't been many players like him, especially not in Jacksonville. As a result, expect for him to be a centerpiece of Meyer's regime.
"I mean, he's invaluable is what he is. And his personality is infectious. You know, in the locker room he jokes around, he's fun. He's funny, but he knows when to get serious at practice. He has a joy to him when he's at practice. So that's infectious," Mora said.
"And so as Urban and his staff come in there, they're going to find Myles to be a guy that they're going to lean on heavily. You know, they'll have some conversations off the book with him about, 'Hey, what can we do? How can you help us in the locker room? What do you see that we need to do a little bit better?' And I think they'll develop a trust in him, you know, off the field, that will really help the team."