The Jacksonville Jaguars are fast building a fan base in the UK as one of the mainstays of the London Games as the NFL rolls back into London next week. But for Matt Wright, his support of the Jags goes back much further, when a trip to America in 2003 resulted in him starting his love for the side.
“I’d been to the States and among my souvenirs I had a Jags hat and a Tampa Bay Jersey. After doing some research when I got back home I discovered that Tampa had won the Super Bowl the year before. I didn’t want to be a bandwagon fan so I decided to go the way of the Jags.”
Clearly plenty of NFL fans will be reading this now and having a little chuckle as the Jags history is certainly not one for the bandwagon fans – so in that respect Matt made a good choice! But in recent years, with the Jags clear interest in the UK market, it’s a good decision as he’s had the opportunity to watch them four times already.
“It’s great how much the franchise has invested in the UK as it means you get to watch them every year. Some teams haven’t even made their way across the pond yet and I’ve seen my team numerous times. A particular highlight for me had to be the victory over the Bills last season. Hurns scoring a TD in the last few minutes in the corner of the end zone right in front of us to get that win was pretty mental!”
Since the Jags have started to become a fixture in the London Games events, the fan base has certainly grown too. Matt’s best friend has also started following them since they first game to London and he finds the UK fan community both passionate and knowledgeable about the game and their team. He’s also found a young fan to start the new generation of home grown Jags fans.
“Well needless to say my son Joshua who is 10 months old is also a Jags fan! He does love wearing his Jags baby suits and can’t think of a better 1st birthday present than his first jersey!”
Got the impression that Matt is quite keen on the Jags yet? Well it’s certainly something that has become apparent within the Jags wider community in the UK. He’s also attracted the attention of the franchise (in a good way!) with a video he made ahead of some previous Wembley games.
“I tweeted a photo of myself shouting “DUUUUVVVALLL” (the county in which Jacksonville play) while dressed in full Jags gear, and it got retweeted numerous times and got seen by a lot of people. The Jags invited me to come along to one of their training sessions which was amazing. I’ve had several Jerseys signed over the years (Fred Taylor, Blake Bortles, Allen Richardson) and have a big Jags flag with over 50 signatures on it.”
That hasn’t been Matt’s only turn in the spotlight as he’s also been caught on camera celebrating that match winning TD of Hurns at Wembley and it’s appeared on the NFL Network, Sky Sports and a lot of promotional videos for the London Games as well as on the big screen at Wembley. Certainly he’s caught the eye of the fans and the team.
But what of the team, for those new to the Jags, even the most supportive of fans would profess that this wouldn’t be the year that you could expect them to be in a Super Bowl winning position but the team is shaping up to be a competitive one. It’s certainly a view that Matt shares.
“We’ve got the makings of a good team, although we need to find a QB and get some solid run blocking from the line. The defence looks good this year and good be really good If we can get some consistency in pass rush. If Yannick Ngaoukye can continue his development and Dante Fowler actually grows up, gets a bit of maturity and shows his true potential then we could go places.”
For many people the game at Wembley on September 24th will signal the first time they’ve seen an NFL game live and will get the chance to see the Jags in action. For super fan Matt, who does he think will be the players that people should be looking out for in London?
“Out cornerback Jalen Ramsey is an amazing player. He really has the potential to be one of the top 3 CB’s in the league by the end of the year. Fournette has the ability to be a beast at running back and I’m very excited at the prospect of Telvin Smith and Myles Jack play linebacker together for an extended period. They really are electric!”
The Jags will face the Baltimore Ravens in this year’s London Games and while they face each other very early in the season, it will be the Ravens’ first regular season NFL game in the UK. In week three last year they faced up against each other in Florida with the Ravens running out as two point winners. But what does Matt think their chances are in their European backyard?
“It’s early in the season but if we’ve established our running game, worked out who between Blake or Henne is going to be our QB and they are settled and of course we don’t turn over the ball, then I do think we’ve got a good chance here. We have the experience of playing in London before, this is our home game and we are don’t forget on a two game winning streak in London.”
Matt’s career as a teacher means the timings of the NFL season have made it difficult to watch the team out in Florida as the season’s and terms don’t work out too well together. He does however make sure he watches every snap live from home! But he has seen enough of the players and the team, past and present to know who his favourite all time stars of the game are.
“Fred Taylor is an absolute legend of a running back while Tony Boselli, who retired before I got into the game was an amazing left tackle. I’ve been lucky enough to meet him several times and watched a lot of videos of him playing.
“Telvin Smith is an electric player and so passionate while I also like Brandon Linder who is a really solid offensive lineman while Jalen Ramsey for me is pushing his way on to the all time list through his attitude and ability.”
They may not have had the glory yet, but the Jags and their fans have the belief that their team is on the right path to victory and have an owner in Shad Khan who has the vision to make that happen. But why should people get behind the team in Matt’s opinion.
“The obvious reason would be that they are really invested in the UK. This team come here every year, you can watch them and get to interact with players both past and present. The fans are great, passionate and supportive and a great community to be a part of. Shad Khan has done a lot already to improve the team and enhance the fan experience and there are loads of ways to follow the team from the website, daily updates videos and a daily podcast from 1010Xl called ‘Jaguars Today’. It’s a great community to be a part of, a great side to be following, so one to definitely get behind.”
If you’re at Wembley or even watching at home on the 24th September then maybe it’s worth giving them a try as your new side. You may be pleasantly surprised.