Since December of 1995, the Vega family has called Jacksonville, Florida home. Coincidentally 1995 was the inaugural season of the newly appointed NFL expansion franchise the Jacksonville, Jaguars. So technically while not a native Floridian, our family has supported the Jaguars for twenty two years through the good, bad, and the ugly!
Last Sunday our family was rewarded with a once in a lifetime experience to see the Jacksonville Jaguars up close and personal. We had field passes for an hour before the game, and got to take pictures of our favorite players and coaches Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin. I got a smile and a wave from Dave Caldwell whom I met earlier this year at a wine event. We hob knobbed with Mayor Lenny Curry and his sons, and were then escorted as special guests to the personal suite of the owner of the Jaguars, Mr. Shahid Khan and his wife Ann.
The thing that struck me the me besides being in complete awe of being in the suite itself, was the variety of people who were in attendance that day. If I were to make a guess, I’d say there were some of the wealthiest people in Jacksonville but then there were regular folks like the Vega’s that were invited too. Everyone wanted a piece of Mr. Khan. So much so that I actually felt bad for him that on this special day, that he couldn’t just sit and enjoy watching the fruits of his labor actually start to pay-off.
The fans in the stadium were more excited than I’ve seen in recent years. The “Wave” made its way around the stadium at least twenty times once the Jags put together a commanding lead. Most every seat was filled and it got very loud in the stadium in support of the team. One of the loudest and most excited fans was in the suite sitting next to me. His name was Brian Ross. Brian, I’m going to guess is in his 20’s and has cerebral palsy. Naturally I was drawn to him immediately. His dad graciously gave up his seat so I could sit next to him, where we quickly bonded and became high-five buddies. He introduced himself to me as Brian, shook my hand, and proceeded to tell me “you’re very nice.” Then we chatted on about how we were going to go to the playoffs this year and how happy that made him. I would have loved to have taken his photo but no photos were allowed in the suite, but for me watching him be filled with joy on every play, and the loving exchange between he and his dad, was such a great gift to me. It helped me to remember how truly blessed I am to have such a good life. His father was so loving, patient, kind, attentive, feeding him. taking him to the bathroom, and cheering with him on every play. I was so moved that by the end of the game I thanked his dad for allowing me to have his seat and share the sweet victory thru the eyes of his son. Honestly I am not sure who is more blessed, the father, son, or me to have witnessed such profound love. I told Brian I’d see him at the playoffs and we shook hands goodbye.
While I never personally got to meet or shake Shad Kahn’s hand, Juan and Justin did to say thank you for hosting us. My new friend Brian though got a very warm and gracious welcome from Mr. Kahn as well. I did get to capture in a quick glance at him, a smile behind his giant mustache, that showed pride that all the money and work he has put into the team is paying off, and his fans were finally going to get their Christmas wish.
When we departed we were given a pair of Tiffany glasses etched with a Jaguar logo and the year 2017 on them and a note saying thank you for being our guest for today’s game, Ann and Shad Khan, I will treasure them always!
Mr. Khan you are a class act. All politics and NFL controversy aside, thank you for taking a chance on our hometown. Thanks for giving Dave Caldwell a chance to prove himself. Both he and his wife are lovely people. But most importantly thanks for bringing Coach Coughlin back home. Coach Coughlin has the most victories, playoffs, wins, and discipline to make our Jacksonville Jaguars the real deal!
May whatever your deepest Christmas desire come true, and may we never forget that this day is not about wins, playoffs, presents, or parties, but a celebration of the birth of our God & Savior Jesus Christ! Amen and Hallelujah!!
Merry Christmas everyone, and Go Jags!