Jaguars CB Shaquill Griffin striving to be part of something great

John Reid
Florida Times-Union
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Shaquill Griffin #26 of the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Rams in an NFC Wild Card game at Lumen Field on January 09, 2021, in Seattle, Washington. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images/TNS)

On his first day at the Jaguars team facility Thursday, newly signed cornerback Shaquill Griffin took part in a group chat with some of his new teammates.

And Griffin was moved enough by the substantial number of teammates, who joined in on the virtual call to introduce themselves, that he suggested if he had enough time, he would have found a way to take everybody out to dinner to sit down and talk.

But one teammate in particular that Griffin didn't need any introduction with was safety Rayshawn Jenkins.

They have been lifelong friends, playing on the same St. Petersburg Pop Warner football team when they were seven. Jenkins described their reunion with the Jaguars as unreal.

“I want to say in six years of playing little league, we won like three championships together, so it was a pretty cool team to be on,'' Jenkins said. ''Lakewood Junior Sparks. They couldn’t deal with us, man, not the three of us. We had a few more athletes as well, but we were like the featured guys, so that was pretty cool to do and be around when we were [younger]. High school, we went to different high schools and different colleges and now we’re back in Florida together, so it’s pretty cool.” 

Like the nine other free agents signed with the Jaguars on Wednesday to play for Urban Meyer, Griffin and Jenkins are reunited in Jacksonville with the same objectives to achieve.

Both are being counted as pivotal starters to turn around a defensive secondary as that allowed the sixth-highest passing yards per game at 264.4 in the NFL last season. The Jaguars officially introduced both players Thursday in a virtual call. 

''I'm just going to give them everything I have to give as a player and as a man on and off the field,'' Griffin said. ''I'm hoping with me doing that and being the leader that I am, it trickles down and becomes so contagious that everybody is doing it. That's how you change a program around with everybody buying in and believing in the same thing. My job is to get everybody to believe in the same way I do even if they don't see it yet.''  

Griffin, who signed a three-year, $44.5 million contract to join the Jaguars after playing four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, will be the team's No. 1 cornerback and a mentor to cornerback CJ Henderson, last year's first-round pick out of Florida. 

Jenkins, a fourth-year veteran strong safety, made a career-high 84 tackles last season with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020.   

''I want to say in six years playing little league together, we won three championships,'' said Jenkins, recalling his Pop Warner team that included Griffin and his brother, Shaquem.''It was a pretty cool team to be on. We went to different high schools, different colleges, and now we're back in Florida together. ''

When he was a middle school, Jenkins said he was a big fan of the Jaguars.

''Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, I know about them because I'm from here,'' Jenkins said. ''I know about the Tampa Bay's, Jacksonville's and the Miami Dolphins and I'm just trying to bring Florida football back to Florida in how it supposed to be played. That's what kind of drew my back.''

Both Griffin and Jenkins said Meyer made a big impact on their decision to join a Jaguars franchise that sputtered through a 1-15 season in 2020. Still, brighter days appear to be ahead with the likely selection of former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick in the April 29 draft.

On the defensive side, the Jaguars added seven new players. Defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris and defensive tackle Malcolm Brown, who was acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Saints in exchange for a 2021 draft pick, are likely to join Griffin and Jenkins as starters. 

Griffin said the Jaguars was his clear choice to sign with because Meyer is a person he trusts who will take them where they need to go because he's going to put the right pieces together to put them in a position to win.

''I get a chance to start part of something great, something new and different that we can call our own,'' Griffin said. ''I think that's the most exciting thing, writing my own journey, my story with an organization that truly believes in me the same way I believe in them.''

A former UCF star, Griffin has six career interceptions after four seasons in Seattle, including a career-high three in 2020 playing as the team's No. 1 corner. In 2019, Griffin made the Pro Bowl as an alternate after having 13 pass breakups and 65 tackles in 14 games.

Griffin's twin brother is Shaquem, who the Seahawks drafted in the fifth-round in 2018 as a linebacker. Shaquem is a free agent who is considering joining his brother in Jacksonville with the Jaguars.  

''We’re hoping for the best and hopefully—you know, the best decision is coming here,'' Griffin said. ''But we just don’t know yet, but until then, I’m supporting wherever he goes and whatever is best for him.I know there’s a business behind it. And my main thing I told him, ‘Just don’t make a decision off [of] where I’m going, do what’s best for you. You’re your own athlete, you have your own story to write and at the end of the day, our story that we have together will always be there and we’re still writing it. It doesn’t matter if you go to the same team or a different team.''

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