When I ask Jack to retrace the process starting from our initial sit down in Arizona, he tried to link up dates and happenings, such as his workouts for teams and his medical re-check at the combine. The idea was a chronological look at how he went from a sure-fire top-5 pick to a second rounder with crushed dreams.
But, as expected, it was a bit of a fog, the whirlwind of it all muddying up the details of the journey.
“I thought it was all good, but then I don’t run my 40 and it blows up,” Jack said. “Then it quiets down some, and a week before the draft it blows up again.”
After his pro day in mid-March, where he didn’t run his 40, there were expectations in the NFL community that he would have a second pro day and run the 40. At one point, he even told me he would run it.
But then he and agent John Thornton made the decision not to run the 40. That became an issue. What was he hiding?
“I could have run it, but why go out there and put up a number that isn’t an accurate or a representation of what I can run?” Jack said “They see me on film moving fast, and if they got a different number, it was going to throw them off. I will probably never run another 40 again. I don’t even want to think about the 40 after that.”
The next step was a trip back to Indianapolis, the site of the NFL Scouting Combine, for the medical re-check. There were differing reports that came from that. There were red flags of sorts, and some team personnel I contracted were concerned. Others said there was no issue.
There was talk of more surgery. There was talk of cartilage issues, which meant bone-on-bone, which usually can mean a shortened career. And then the new dreaded surgical word popped up: Micro-fracture. Once upon a time, three letters used to scare football players: ACL. Now it’s micro-fracture.
As the news started leaking out about knee problems, Jack continued the process. He worked out every day. No pain. He had individual workouts for teams, including the Dolphins, , Raiders and Jaguars. No pain.
In the days leading up the draft, Jack was the most-talked about prospect. Would he fall out of the top 10? Would a team take a risk? Was he a risk?
Jack went to Chicago with the intention that he would still be a high pick. Two days before the draft, the New York Post quoted him as saying he might need micro-fracture surgery down the road. That led to more questions.
“I got asked by a reporter hypothetically if such and such happens will I have to have micro-fracture surgery?” Jack said. “He kind of outsmarted me. I have to own up to it to this day and me being young he got me. A meteor could wipe up us off the Earth. Hypothetically, anything can happen. Bottom line, he outsmarted me. I am not a candidate for surgery.”
The night of the first round of the draft, Jack gathered his family and went to the ceremony expecting to hear his name called. He didn’t.
“It’s really hard to talk about that night, the raw feeling of it,” he said. “You walk the red carpet. You invite people out, your girl, your mom, your grandma. Everyone is dressed up. You have your whole family in the green room waiting to hear your name called and you keep hearing other tables screaming and other people’s (walk-up) music being played. Then I look up at the TV and see (NFL Network Insider) Ian Rapoport talking about my knee. It was frustrating. What could I do? Show them I had a 50-inch vertical jump? Go play Arena Football? I didn’t know what I could do to end all the doubt.”
Myles Jack poses with his mother on the red carpet on the first night of the NFL Draft.
When the first round was over, he retreated to his hotel. At one point, he told his family he wanted to be by himself.
“I was sitting in the living room trying to figure out what happened,” Jack said. “It wasn’t the way it was supposed to go.”
The next morning, Jack was antsy. So, like he has a lot of times in his life, he needed a gym — a basketball gym. He and his uncle and brother took an UBER to a court to play some hoops. It was after one of his dunks that his uncle said he needed to film it and send it out on social media, a sign that he was fine. Jack slammed one down, the uncle taped it and it went out into cyberspace leading up to Day 2. It went viral.
“It had over 1 million interactions on social media,” he said. “It kind of took off.”
Even then, some skeptics analyzed the way he came down. Was he protecting the knee? That’s how bad it got.
“I was starting to think there was an obsession with my knee,” Jack said.
That night, the Jaguars moved up to the fifth spot in the second round to take a player they considered strongly in the first round. Jack’s nightmare was over. He was in the NFL, even if it cost him a bundle during the process.
Jack was on the field this past weekend for the team’s rookie orientation. He was the only linebacker on the field, so he did a lot — with no problems. He learned the middle, which is where he will eventually become a star. The Jaguars have already compared him to Seattle’s Bobby Wagner.
“I would say he’s in really good shape right now,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “I think he’s in the 230s, something like that. He just looked in good shape and I know he feels good about where his weight is right now. He moved around pretty good.”
That doesn’t mean the knee talk is over. It might be that way his entire career. The doubters seem to be waiting for the moment when it becomes an issue.
“A METEOR COULD WIPE UP US OFF THE EARTH. HYPOTHETICALLY, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.”– Myles Jack
“Time bomb?” Jack said. “Who came up with that? Who knows what will happen in the future? I don’t even sweat my knee. I don’t even guard it. I don’t count my steps. My muscle memory is back. I can do it all.”
On his first night in Jacksonville, Jack went to a local restaurant for chicken wings with some of his new teammates. As they waited for the order, a fan came up to him.
“You should have went in the first round,” the man said. “If it wasn’t for your knee.”
Jack said he just smiled.
“All I can do is tell them it’s fine,” he said. “It was a different journey than I expected. But I am here now. All I can do is go out and play football. Just play ball, and see what happens.”
By any reasonable measurement, Adrian Peterson is one of the best running backs of his era, and probably in NFL history. He’s led the league in rushing yards three times and rushing touchdowns twice. He’s made the Pro Bowl in every season that didn’t get cut short due to injury or suspension and he’s a four-time first-team All-Pro. In nine seasons, he has rushed for 11,675 yards and 97 touchdowns. Those figures rank 17th and 10th all-time, respectively.
According to AP himself, the back end of his career is going to be even more special. “Not to be cocky or anything, but I know, at 31, my end is going to be better than my beginning,” the Vikings star told Peter King of The MMQB. “One thing I know, and will remain true: These young guys will never outwork me. I put my body through the grind. Just knowing how my body remains healthy, age is not really affecting me. It’s my mindset. I don’t get into the 30-year-old running-back thing, that you’re done at 30. I am getting stronger with age. Honest, last year [when he won his third rushing title at age 30] was a disappointment to me, because I know I can do more. Honest, it was.”
Peterson considers last year — when he led the NFL in carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns — a disappointment? Well, I guess that’s one way to make sure you’re always motivated.