Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Win Would Have Been Fitting on Meester Sunday

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Win Would Have Been Fitting on Meester Sunday

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette

When Brad Meester was cleaning hog pens and baling hay on his father Kenny's 900-acre farm during all those childhood summers in Iowa, this wasn't the retirement ceremony he envisioned.

His mother, Rhonda, said she never imagined the Jaguars' center even being drafted into the NFL, much less sticking around 14 years with the same team. He ended up outlasting three head coaches, three general managers, six quarterbacks and 21 starting offensive linemen.

If anybody in the Jaguars' organization deserved to have his final EverBank Field appearance punctuated with a victory, it was Meester. Who wouldn't want that for someone who played 208 games in the NFL trenches and genuinely lived by his motto of trying to do everything the right way?

Almost everything about Sunday's celebration of a remarkable career by the longest tenured Jaguar was perfect. All except the 20-16 final score in favor of the Tennessee Titans, which ironically happened, in part, because Meester and the offensive line couldn't create enough room for Maurice Jones-Drew to convert a fourth-and-1 in the closing minutes.

"You kind of run out of words to [describe Meester]," said Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri. "The guy's a class act, that's what it boils down to. We wanted to get that win for Meester. It's frustrating we couldn't send him out at home the way he deserved."

From an outcome perspective, that's true. But nobody would dispute that the Jaguars, despite attrition ravaging the lineup, made every conceivable effort to give Meester a sendoff that should remain a heartwarming memory for him well into old age.

In pregame introductions, he was the only player called out by public address announcer Anthony Bellino. After the game, many in the announced crowd of 60,559 stuck around for a brief team ceremony honoring Meester, which included gifts of four framed No. 63 jerseys.

But nothing captured the emotional EverBank farewell quite like the play preceding the Jaguars' first touchdown. For the first time in his career, Meester reported as a tackle-eligible and caught a 9-yard, tight-end screen pass for a first down at the Tennessee 4.

"It was pretty awesome to almost score," said Meester.

Though he didn't reach the end zone, the stadium went bonkers. Inside, Meester was doing cartwheels because in his entire football life, he had never caught a ball as an intended receiver. Not in the NFL, not at Northern Iowa, or at Aplington-Parkersburg High School.

"It meant a lot after the catch, the crowd started cheering 'Meester.' That was pretty cool," he said. "You talk about memories that you'll take on for the rest of your life. That's one I'll always remember."

What Jaguars fans should always remember about Meester is not any one-game snapshot, but his cumulative body of work and how he never took his privileged lifestyle for granted. …

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