Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A WIDE AWAKENING; from Practice Squad Player Who Slept in His Car, Mickens Provides Lift as Returner

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A WIDE AWAKENING; from Practice Squad Player Who Slept in His Car, Mickens Provides Lift as Returner

Article excerpt

Byline: Phillip Heilman

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles thinks it looks terrifying.

Fullback Tommy Bohanon says you have to be a little bit crazy to enjoy doing it.

Even coach Doug Marrone believes a certain type of courage is required to have any success.

While mostly everyone inside the Jaguars' locker room shudders at the idea of returning punts, Jaydon Mickens has used the opportunity to go from living out of his car to making an impact in a thrilling playoff race.

His next chance comes Sunday when the Jaguars host Houston at EverBank Field.

"It's getting better and better, but I love the wins. I love the 9-4 record," Mickens said. "That's what really excites me. It's a great accomplishment."

An accomplishment Mickens only could have dreamed about being a part of earlier this season, when he chose to sleep in his car rather than pay for a permanent place to live.

That's because, he said, there was nothing permanent about his situation.

"If you're on a month or year lease, you can't break it," Mickens said. "I didn't know how long I was going to be here. You can be here for two weeks and then gone tomorrow."

Mickens knows the wayward life of a practice squad player better than most.

After being cut for the third time in a year by Oakland on Sept. 4, he was signed to the Jaguars' practice squad 15 days later. Mickens remained there until being promoted to the active roster Oct. 21 as the team looked for a boost on special teams and depth at receiver ahead of a Week 7 game at Indianapolis.

To save money during that time - Mickens estimated his paychecks while on practice squad were about $6,500 a week compared to the $465,000 yearly rookie minimum he makes now - Mickens said he and receiver Larry Pinkard would hang out late with teammates before finding a place to park their cars and go to sleep.

Usually, that was the EverBank Field parking lot, Mickens said. Sometimes, they would drive to a downtown hotel and park there - a place they knew they would be safe.

The routine from there was usually the same: wake up around 5 a.m., go start treatment with a splash in the hot or cold tub and grab breakfast before meetings and practice.

"You can go into an offseason and not get paid for six months," Mickens said. "I would rather save every check if I'm on the practice squad for the whole year and have something to fall back on."

Mickens said he didn't tell many teammates about his unusual living arrangements because he didn't want to cause any problems. He also never asked the Jaguars for any sort of help finding even temporary residence.

The 23-year-old Mickens, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, said flatly: "I came from nothing. I've been through way worse."

And now he is experiencing way better. …

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