Logan Cooke Jersey

How a kid from rural Mississippi who grew up riding horses and lassoing steers became an NFL punter begins with a picture sitting in the den of Jaguars rookie Logan Cooke’s childhood home.

Seen in that family keepsake is a younger Cooke — likely 3 or 4 years old at the time — with his grandfather, Jackie, as he kicks a football with his tiny legs.

Cooke, a seventh-round pick by the Jaguars in April who is currently the only punter on the team’s 90-man roster, never outgrew the small-town way of life that involves hours spent hunting, fishing and farming.

And he never tired from his grandfather’s shared passion: kicking a football as far as his powerful right leg would allow.

“It’s something that throughout my life I’ve had a knack for and enjoyed,” said Cooke, who signed a four-year contract with the Jaguars. “I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid, and then I got into junior high and high school and I figured out I could actually be really good at it, so I kind of got a little more serious about it.”

The Jaguars are serious about their belief in Cooke. Two days after selecting him with the 247th overall pick out of Mississippi State, they released six-year veteran Brad Nortman, who spent the past two seasons in Jacksonville.

Moving on from Nortman cleared $2.125 million in salary cap space for the Jaguars, according to the contract analysis website spotrac. And it sent an immediate message to Cooke that the job is his to lose.

“It was odd,” Cooke said. “It put a lot of pressure on me, but it also gave me the assurance that they really like me and really want me here. … I know I’ll still have to compete. Even if no one’s here, I’m still going into that deal with a competitive mindset. At this level, if you don’t perform, even if you are the only guy here, they can wave goodbye pretty quick.”

Cooke developed that competitive mindset growing up in Darbun, Miss., a quiet city about 90 minutes south of Jackson and a couple hours north of New Orleans. (“We have a little general store, that’s about it,” Cooke said. “You can go to that store and get everything.”)

Before he became one of the top high school punters in the country, Cooke and his older sister, Jordan, grew up competing in rodeos. Jordan is 26 and still rodeoing away today, Cooke said.

Back home, the siblings helped their parents maintain about 50 animals — cows, horses, etc. — on the family farm.

“It all teaches you responsibility and hard work,” Cooke said. “That’s actually the reason I quit rodeoing is I had to keep my horse in shape. Once I started really getting big into sports, I didn’t really have time to keep me in shape and my horse in shape, so I had to pick one.”

It’s fair to say Cooke made the right choice.

The Jaguars became interested in the 6-foot-5 Cooke following his productive four-year career at Mississippi State. In 45 career games and 150 punts, Cooke checked all of the necessary boxes. His 41.7-yard average and 35 punts of more than 50 yards showed his strength. His 60 punts placed inside an opponent’s 20-yard line displayed his precision.

Cooke also served as the Bulldogs’ kickoff specialist and could be an option in that role for the Jaguars. However, Josh Lambo produced 22 touchbacks on 57 kickoffs last season and has proven to be a good directional kicker.

Ronnie Harrison Jersey

Nick Saban didn’t want to name names, but he didn’t do a very good job of keeping the subject of his shade a secret.

The Alabama football coach was lamenting players who left for the NFL draft too early, and referenced one nameless player specifically to get his point across that he would have been better off staying in school for another year.

“If you’re a third-round draft pick, and we had one here last year — I’m not going to say any names — goes and starts for his team, so he’s making third-round money, which is not that great,” Saban told reporters Saturday after the Crimson Tide’s spring game. “He’d be the first guy taken at his position this year, probably, and make $15-18 million more. So, the agent makes out, the club makes out, and now they’ve got a guy that’s going to play for that kind of money for three more years.”

The only problem is Alabama only had one third-round pick last year, and it was safety Ronnie Harrison, who was drafted 93rd overall by the Jaguars. It didn’t take long for Harrison to catch wind of Saban’s not-so-subtle comments, jabbing back with a tweet Sunday.

“Coaches get so Butt Hurt Now Days About a Kid Making a Decision to live out his dreams and Go Pro,” he wrote. “Makes me think do you really care about the success of the kid or how well your program performs?KeepMyNameOutYaMouth #Bama #Saban #GodGotIt.”

Of course, where a player goes in the draft is not the only consideration when they leave school early. Some decide they need to make money now and be compensated for their play instead of spending another year on scholarship under their coach who is making millions of dollars.

After being drafted last year, Harrison signed a four-year, $3.4 million contract with $803,032 in guaranteed money — $803,032 more than he would have been making this season at Alabama.

The Crimson Tide had four first-round picks last year, but Harrison was one of eight taken in the third round or later. The trend clearly irks Saban, who seems to prefer his players come back if they are not surefire early-round picks.

“I do know there’s some pretty compelling stats out there about guys going out early for the draft,” Saban said. “I think in the last five years, not counting this year, there’s been 380 or thereabouts go out early for the draft, and 25 percent of those guys didn’t even get drafted. And another 25 percent weren’t on the team in three years. So, that means 50 percent of the guys that went out early for the draft had failed grades. But if you look at the number of guys that were first- and second-round draft picks, there were very few guys that had failed careers.

“Now, we have guys that have no draft grades, seventh-round grades, free-agent grades, fifth-round grades that are going out of the draft. And the person that loses in that is the player.”

Jalen Ramsey Jersey

Jacksonville Jaguars outspoken cornerback Jalen Ramsey is apparently in the market for a new deal.

He’s apparently now looking for a whopping deal that might top the one safety Landon Collins just inked with the Washington Redskins.

Collins just made a bank six-year deal that pays him a massive $14 million per year. That’s not small change by any means for a safety.

It obviously did not take long for Ramsey to note the dollar signs here. Nor did he fail to take advantage of campaigning on behalf of fellow cornerbacks around the league.

Ramsey is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal that will pay him $3.6 million in 2019. This is unless Ramsey can convince the Jaguars to extend him early.

With the news that the Jacksonville Jaguars have interest in signing Nick Foles to a deal, star cornerback Jalen Ramsey is looking to raid the entire Eagles organization. Ramsey hopped on Twitter recently and did his best to recruit Golden Tate to the Jaguars, using family as an excuse to bring the two together.

Telvin Smith Jersey

MIAMI GARDENS — It seems like an eternity since the Jaguars’ defense found the end zone.

On Sunday, linebacker Telvin Smith made prophets out of his teammates and himself when he snared a fourth quarter interception and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown, sealing a 17-7 conquest of the Miami Dolphins.

“At the beginning of the series, I said I was going to catch a pick,” said Smith. “On the sideline, you’d be surprised how many people said, ‘Telvin is about to make a play.’ They ran up to me after the play [saying], ‘I was like, bruh, I said you were about to make that play.’

“Everybody was just speaking it into existence. I just went out there and finished it off. I appreciate everybody in their belief.”

Smith also acknowledged that in the pregame, he told teammates the defense would hold Miami to seven points.

“It’s crazy, the power of the tongue,” Smith said with a smile.

On a day where both offenses struggled to put up points, the Jaguars’ defense — which had seven TDs in 2017 — saved the day.

The timing of Smith’s pick-six was almost identical to the interception return for a touchdown that Myles Jack had in the season opener against the New York Giants. That was a 32-yard pickoff of Eli Manning, giving the Jaguars a 20-9 lead early in the fourth quarter that they ended up winning 20-15.

Now it was Smith’s turn to provide the heroics that gave the Jaguars only their second win since September.

As Calais Campbell pressured Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill, making it impossible for him to step into the throw, an alert Smith cut in front of intended target Kalen Ballage and easily cradled the ball. He virtually jogged into the end zone, picking up a 15-yard taunting penalty as he pointed at Dolphins’ tight end Mike Gesicki.

“Linebackers, man, it’s always great to see Telvin get in that zone, point at somebody, do a celebration,” said Jack. “That’s our captain, so any time he’s doing big things, it just fires everybody else up and we just continue making plays.”

Smith, one of the most animated Jaguars’ players, was feeling rather giddy when talking about the game’s biggest play. He didn’t seem to be feeling any remorse over the taunting penalty either.

“Listen, listen, don’t think you’re going to chase me down, tackle me when I got the rock,” Smith said. “None of that, or I’m going to point at ya and get you right.

“Today was just big plays, everybody playing hard. I knew they were about to throw the pick when we had the pressure. I saw the [potential] sack about to go down. I saw [Tannehill’s] eyes get big. He was fixin’ to throw it to me. Great play.”

The interception was a culmination of a lockdown day for the Jaguars’ defense, which allowed only 105 yards after Miami’s touchdown drive on the opening possession. Tannehill completed only 5 of 10 passes for 50 yards in the second half, while the Dolphins’ run game managed just 62 yards all day.

“They threw the first punch, but we tightened up and got it right,” said Jack.