[Editor's note: This is the first installment in Playbook's "Fan Experience" series, where we tap athletes to discuss their experiences with fans and their own memories of growing up as fans.]
Jacksonville Jaguars fullback Greg Jones is a hulking 6-foot-1, 254-pound man who was basically built to block your entire face off. Jones looks imposing -- and has the football skills to back it up -- but he’s also charming and gregarious. He recently spoke to Playbook about fans in Florida, his love of basketball and how fans can sometimes be scary.
Playbook: What’s the craziest thing one of your fans has ever done?
Jones: There’s this lady in Jacksonville that’s a huge Jaguars fan, and each year she gets guys on the team to sign her arm, or a part of her body, in permanent marker. Then once she gets that signature, she’ll get it tattooed on her.
Does she have the entire team now?
Not all the team, but certain guys. You know. To me, that’s a little too extreme. (Laughs.)
Is there a player who you grew up looking up to that you’d be starstruck to meet?
I don’t know. I was a big Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan fan growing up. A big Larry Bird fan, too. I don’t know if I’d be starstruck, but I might have to reel myself in a little bit.
Growing up and attending Battery Creek High School in Beaufort, S.C., was that a hard-core football environment?
Oh yeah. When I was in high school, on Friday nights everybody was at the football games. Not like the town would shut down completely, but everybody would be at those games. And the surrounding towns would be the same thing for Friday night football. It was pretty big.
You went to Florida State. How much do you love those Florida fans?
I love those fans. Though, down in Jacksonville, it’s primarily either Florida Gators fans or Georgia Bulldogs fans. You might get some Florida State fans here or there, but those Florida Gators fans ... being a Seminole, they can get on your nerves a little bit. (Laughs.)
Do you feel like there’s a difference between cold-weather fans and warm-weather fans?
I don’t think there’s a difference really. You know, fans are going to be fans regardless. Some are going to be bandwagoners, and some are going to be die-hard, dedicated fans.
Do fans ever come up to you and re-enact some of your most vicious blocks?
You get stories, you know? People will come up to you and tell you a story about how they remember this play or that play. They can be a little crazy sometimes.
Do you prefer to meet crazed, obsessed fans or the calm, quiet fans?
The calm, quiet fans. Definitely. The crazy ones are great, too, but they can be a little scary sometimes. (Laughs.)
Even for a big guy like you?
(Laughs.) Yeah! You don’t know the person, so you don’t really know what they’re thinking about or what they’re going to do.
Is there anything you wish a fan would do? Maybe bake you a pie or something?
Oh, bake me a pie? Nah, nah. I can’t eat that during the season, man.
You have to love your fans no matter what, right?
Yeah, absolutely. Without them, people don’t know about you, and there’s no football. There are no games without fans.
What do you think it is that makes fans so amazing and dedicated?
First of all, coming to one o’clock games in the heat! If you’ve ever been to a one o’clock game in Jacksonville in September or October, it’s hot, man. It can be 100 degrees easy. That and just sticking with us. We had a couple years where we just weren’t as good, but they stuck with us. They’re dedicated football fans, and I appreciate that. I love dedicated football fans, and I hate fair-weather fans. We have dedicated fans here, and that means a lot to me.