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By Shannon Mahaney

It’s 2023 and it’s good to be a Jacksonville Jaguars fan! Granted at the beginning of the season, I wouldn’t so much as utter those words. Being a Jags fan is hard. I would know. I’ve been a Jaguars fan since 2010 when I first moved to the city of Jacksonville, FL to finish my Bachelor’s Degree.

My family was always into college football over NFL which meant I never had a team I wanted to follow. But when I moved to Jacksonville, I thought it would be a great time to start following the Jags. I bought tickets to see them play the Eagles that fall. My first NFL game. They were nosebleed tickets and we got our butts kicked. Tough first game to watch. Even harder eating the cost of those tickets on a poor college kid’s budget!

The team redeemed themselves in my heart that same year when we faced the Colts and Peyton Manning. Josh Scobee kicked a 59-yard game-winning field goal. We won 31-28. The crowd went wild! I remember walking out of the stadium singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” with all the other Jags fans. The energy of a win was electric in that stadium. It spilled over into a post-game tailgate where I met all sorts of Jags fans.

Jacksonville has a loyal fan base. Despite our history of losing seasons, we are truly passionate about our team and our city. There is a lot of pride when it comes to being a Jags fan. What NFL team shouts the county their team is based in? I’m sure non-Jags audiences wonder what the heck we are yelling when we shout “Duuuval” at the tops of our lungs mid-game. They aren’t Jags fans…they’ll never understand.

The Jaguars get a lot of flack. Most people laugh when I tell them I’m a Jags fan. But the thing about being a Jags fan is you do it because you love that city. We aren’t Fairweather fans. Even after jobs pulled me away from the city of Jacksonville to the upstate of South Carolina, I still proudly wear my #9 David Garrard jersey. I’ve taught my 2.5-year-old how to shout DUUUVAL!

The Jaguars have had opportunities to prove their haters wrong. During the 2017 season, we were riding high with wins leading us to the AFC Championship game against Tom Brady and the Patriots.  It was the one game that stood between us and our first Super Bowl.  But as most Jags fans know the feeling of disappointment, we lost that game. It was my 29th birthday and it was the only time I ever cried over a sport in my life.

Jags fans have held on through thick and thin. We set our expectations low. In 2021, we used our first-round draft pick on Clemson’s own Trevor Lawrence. And while we don’t mention Trevor’s first season and the disaster of a hiring “He Who Shall Not Be Named” was, the Jags redeemed themselves and hired Doug Pederson for the 2022 season. It felt like the tables were turning in our favor. 

Although this year started off rough, something shifted in December. Suddenly we were winning games every single week. It seemed like the team was united in working together and pulling wins anyway. Take the Wildcard game on January 14th for example.  Trevor Lawrence threw 4 interceptions in the first half. Yet he came out after halftime and proceeded to confidently throw 3 touchdowns. Not to mention, the defense held the Chargers to one field goal in that second half.

It was an unprecedented comeback to win 31-30 against the Chargers. It gave the city of Jacksonville and the Jaguars fan base hope to believe we could do anything. Our next challenge will be facing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional game. It’s going to be a tough game on the road. But after these last few months of watching this team pull together and win, I have no doubt they are capable of an upset. I should mention that this Saturday is also my birthday. A Jags win against the Chiefs would be a wonderful redemption for 2017.

If the game doesn’t go in our favor, I still am so proud of the Jags. They’ve overcome adversity, proved many an ESPN game prediction wrong, and shown that they can pull off wins under pressure. If we’ve learned anything from last week’s game, it’s never sleep on the Jags. After all, it was always the Jags!