The Jacksonville Jaguars had just finished the 1999 season with the best record in the NFL, and finished one game shy of a Super Bowl. This was a young team with a ton of talent. When it was their time to make their first pick in the 2000 draft, they felt they had the luxury of taking the “best player available” with the 29th pick.
That player ended up being R. Jay Soward, an underachieving but flashy WR for the USC Trojans. He had amazing skills, though his senior year was a little underwhelming. He had a four TD game his freshman year, yet only managed 32 touchdowns over his four year college career. His senior year, he was running off the field to go to the bathroom during the game. He decided to send obscene gestures to the opposing team’s fans along the way. He once was almost trampled by the USC mascot horse. This is a player that was known to smoke marijuana every day! The Jaguars obviously believed the “Discipline Guru” Tom Coughlin would be able to curtail Soward’s demons.
The team learned quickly that Soward was not going to change. When he was consistently late for practices and meetings, they sent a limo pick him up. He was being mouthy and ill-prepared in areas related to the playbook, so they asked the team veterans to look after him. After his first year, the Jags were rewarded with underwhelming performances but large amounts of locker room and off-field distractions. They were dealing with an elite athlete who seemed more interested in pursuing a rap career.
Shortly thereafter, the NFL informed the Jags that Soward would be suspended for drug use. Another substance abuse suspension was handed down before the first had even concluded. The Jaguars eventually and gladly severed ties. Within two years R. Jay Soward, a first round pick, was out of the National Football League.
A rehabilitated Soward attempted a comeback in the Canadian football league in 2004. It proved to be semi-successful. The foolish behavior never left though. It was highlighted by a playoff game in which he scored an early touchdown catch. He then performed a celebration that was termed so “excessive, insulting, & unnecessary,” that it drew a personal foul. It also inspired the opposing team to rise up in anger and take the game over.
R. Jay Soward, a No. 1 draft pick in the 2000 NFL college draft, at last reporting, is now in the television field…as a repairman. I hear he dreams of resurrecting his football career one day. As a Jacksonville Jaguar fan, I hope he never sees a football field ever again unless the players are wearing flags on their side. It was reported later that other NFL teams were also intrigued by Soward’s combination of size and speed. It was also said that most of those teams had removed him from their draft board because of his perceived character issues.
R. Jay Soward was a cancer for the Jaguars and a seemingly bad guy. I’m only thankful that the multiple substance-abuse suspensions he suffered appears to insure he never saw much more than his initial signing bonus. I blame him for ending the Jaguars playoff run. The Jaguars, coming off the best record in football the year before, was primed and ready to finish the job. Soward poisoned the locker room and broke the team’s spirit.
The Jaguars are dealing with the same situation currently with Justin Blackmon and his substance abuse, but it is not devastating the team’s morale like Soward did. R. Jay Soward should serve as a constant example to the Jags. Never overlook a player’s character. Never forget actions committed in a player’s past. Especially just because of his talents! I can only pray that the Jaguars organization always remembers this.
This nightmare was brought to you by Michael McDonald
R. Jay…If you’d like to refund my 2000 season ticket cost, hit me up on Twitter @Gumbussy.