August 16, 2011 at 10:44 pm #3573
Jaguars rookie Will Rackley squarely in starting mix
Coaches and Garrard impressed with Jaguars’ third-round guard
Jaguars rookie offensive guard Will Rackley loved playing running back as a seventh-grader in Pop Warner football in North Carolina.
"I was MVP. Pretty good. Scored a couple of touchdowns running guys over," he said.
When he gained weight and his family moved to Atlanta, the coaches wanted Rackley to play on the line. He didn’t want to.
"I stopped playing for a while," he said.
By his junior year in high school, Rackley changed his mind — a decision that changed his life.
Though he played only two years in high school football, Rackley earned a scholarship to Lehigh, became a four-year starter and was drafted by the Jaguars in the third round.
Now, he has a shot to become the sixth rookie drafted by general manager Gene Smith — and the only one in this year’s class — to start his first regular-season game.
The opening was created after the Jaguars waived veteran guards Justin Smiley and Vince Manuwai. They’ve since signed two guards, Jason Spitz and Tony Moll, but Rackley (6-feet-3, 305 pounds) is in the mix for the job.
Rackley dislocated the middle finger on his left hand in practice Sunday night, but he doesn’t expect that to hinder him.
Coach Jack Del Rio is giving him good reviews.
"He’s been pretty solid for us," Del Rio said.
Del Rio likes that Rackley is learning from his mistakes.
"We like to work the guys that get here and give them an opportunity to compete. He’s doing that," Del Rio said. "He’s shown some promise, but we’ve got a lot of work to do as a football team and him as a young player as well. But he’s doing some good things that put him in contention. We’ll see how it plays out."
Rackley also caught the eye of quarterback David Garrard.
"I haven’t really noticed too much [rush] from his side, especially when I was watching practice," Garrard said. "He stepped right in, and it has been really seamless, and it seems like he’s on top of everything. That’s a positive thing to see, somebody that’s young like that to be able to step in without a hitch."
Garrard said he won’t be worried if the rookie wins the job, noting that tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton started as rookies two years ago.
"If the coaches put them out there, they’re ready to go," Garrard said. "I’ve got every confidence in the world for them to protect me. When they don’t and have issues, I’ve got to be able to confront them the right way."
Rackley earned his degree from Lehigh in product design, saying, "I’ve always been interested in using my hands. Building things and taking them apart is something I enjoy."
Now he’s using his hands trying to win a starting job, but he knows he’s in a battle.
"I’m going to go out there every day and compete to get that starting job," Rackley said.August 17, 2011 at 7:25 am #3574
What an honor for Lehigh and most important, an honor for the young man and his family. The best of luck!
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