Luke Joeckel first arrived in Jacksonville as the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, which meant big expectations for the big offensive linemen. He'll return there this week to play his former team as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
Joeckel had some good moments in Jacksonville, but never quite lived up to the hype of being a top pick, in no small part because of injuries, and as a team the Jaguars continued to struggle, winning a total of 15 games in his four years there.
As a free agent coming off an injury Joeckel had options, including a possible return to Jacksonville, but instead elected to come to Seattle to start a new chapter in his career, one that, other than an injury setback, is off to a good start. Joeckel opened the season as Seattle's starting left guard, but missed five games after needing another knee surgery. He has been back for the past two games and, along with the addition of left tackle Duane Brown has helped improve Seattle's line play of late. In other words, Joeckel has been what the Seahawks hoped he would be when they signed him in the offseason.
"He has done a great job for us," Carroll said. "And just the overall athleticism, the smarts, size, he's got everything that you are looking for, and that's why he was a number one pick. He's done well for us."
Now, Joeckel will try to build on an encouraging first season with the Seahawks by helping his new team defeat his former one. But despite things not gong exactly according to plan in Jacksonville, there is no extra motivation or feeling of needing to prove anything to anyone for Joeckel.
"I'm just treating it like it's another work week, another opponent," he said. "They've got a stout defensive front, and it'll be a good test.
"I enjoyed (my time in Jacksonville). Jacksonville's a great place to live. We didn't win a lot of football games, but I enjoyed my time there. I have some good buddies I played with, but now I'm excited the new opportunity I have here in Seattle, and I'm just happy to be here."
But even if Joeckel didn't circle this game as soon as the 2017 schedule was released, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll still plans on talking to his left guard at some point this week just to make sure his head's in the right place, something Carroll did last week with former Eagles Byron Maxwell and Marcus Smith.
"Yeah, as matter of fact, I do (have that conversation with players facing former teams)," Carroll said. "… Because it can be a really big deal, and it can be a big enough deal that it can cause an effect that you don't really want. I know this as well as anybody. I get jacked up when we play teams where there is some history or whatever. You have to put it in the right place, so that you can function at your best, so that's why I check in with them, and I will always do that to make sure that the guys are thinking clearly and we find a prospective to put it in. I asked Maxie (Wednesday), matter of fact, 'How was it, what was it like and how did you handle that?' And he was very poised about it at game time, but he knew. He was aware of it. He put it in the right place and allowed himself to play really clear-thinking and functioning well and that is what is important. So I think it is an important thing to do, yeah."
While Maxwell admitted after the game that playing the Eagles meant a lot, he also challenged that energy into a strong performance that was capped by a fourth-quarter interception that helped put the game on ice.
"Anytime you play against your former team, you want to win," Maxwell said after the game Sunday. "It means a lot, it means a lot. Philadelphia, obviously they paid me, I'm thankful for that, they took a chance on me, it didn't work out, but this win feels great though."
When it comes to facing a former team, Carroll says, "it's a big deal; it's how you deal with it," and having coached as long as he has and for as many teams, he's speaking from personal experience. Because while Carroll is now the one dispensing wisdom about keeping one's cool, there was a time early in his career when he could have used advice from the more mature version of himself.
"I got fired at Buffalo years ago—I don't think I have ever talked about this—I got fired at Buffalo years ago," Carroll said. "A bunch of guys got fired off that staff; we had a terrible year. We were 2-14 or something like that, it was an awful team. The next year looking forward, we were going to play the Bills and I was at the Vikings, and I told the players during the week, 'Help me out,' I'm so crazy because I was so pissed that I got fired. I was all stupid about it and everything. Anyway, so I made a big deal about it to try and get them fired up too, and I'm standing in pregame and they are warming up and I'm standing next to Coach (Bud) Grant and I said, 'Hey coach,'—because I'm berserk, I want to kill them, whatever; it's stupid, just young coach issues—and I said, 'Coach.' Because he was just standing the epitome of calm and poise and all that, as he always was, I said 'Hey coach, do you ever get nervous?' And he said, 'Damn right, I get nervous, what are you talking about? Of course I do. You think I'm not human?' and as he always did, he put me in my place. Because I was going crazy at the time and he just looked like he was so chill. That is where that game started and fortunately, we won the game late in the game. Teddy Brown scored a touchdown on a Statue of Liberty, this awesome play that Jerry Burns called, and we win the game and I busted out, I'm in the press box and I bust out of the press box, I'm looking for the owner of the Bills. And luckily (then-Vikings defensive line coach) Paul Wiggin was in the box with me, and talked me to some sense and got me straight so I didn't screw it up and be a total idiot. It's a bad story, but it's a fond memory."
If the Seahawks can beat the Jaguars Sunday, it's a safe bet Joeckel won't go running around looking for Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, both because Carroll will have warned the guard of the dangers of building up a game against his former team, and more importantly, because his head is in the right place this week.
"The mindset I'm taking is that it's just another week," Joeckel said. "They're a tough opponent, it's a great matchup, and we've got to have the right preparation and go out there and perform."
Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Jaguars as the two teams ready to face off during Week 14 at Everbank Field.