At the beginning of the heartfelt press conference, a tearful Joe Jurevicius told the media that it was last time he and his wife would address the tragedy publicly.
"My idea with this conference right here is to get everything out now so that, come the season, the issue is over," said an emotional Joe Jurevicius. " So, hopefully I've got all my tears out and I'm ready to go. So, please understand I really want to do this for you guys so that you can get a story -- with the understanding that when the season rolls around, I can concentrate on football and not have to go back."
Meagan gave birth to the couple's first son on January 14, 2003, and although the baby's arrival was welcomed, he was born prematurely.
Doctors gave Michael Jurevicius a 2 percent chance to live 48 hours after his birth, but he defied those odds by living nearly two months and two weeks before passing away due to sialidosis, which is a rare disease in the cell that doesn't allow the enzymes in the cell to function correctly, thus disallowing the cells in the rest of the body to function.
"He was sick long before he was born," said Meagan Jurevicius. " We were always just hoping it would go away. That was one of the options. That it would just go away. So that's what we were hoping for."
Joe and Meagan Jurevicius spent countless hours with their son in hospitals, including St. Joseph's Hospital,Tampa General Hospital and St. Louis General Hospitial.
The couple's roller coaster of emotions started on Jan. 14, which was the day Michael was born, and two days after Tampa Bay defeated San Francisco in an NFC Divisional Playoff game.
Joe Jurevicius went from the high of becoming a father and winning a playoff game to the ultimate low of being faced with the real possibility of losing his first son.
Jurevicius was excused from almost a week's worth of practices during the week leading up to Tampa Bay's NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles in order be with Meagan while tending to their ailing son.
Not only did Jurevicius play against the Eagles, but he also managed to haul in what was arguably the biggest reception in franchise history when he caught a pass from quarterback Brad Johnson which produced a 71-yard gain to help set up Tampa Bay's first offensive touchdown of the game.
"I think that goes back to the doctors originally giving Michael a 2 percent chance to survive (for) 48 hours. Michael beat that by about five days, so he was strong, he persevered, so why couldn't I? It wasn't until the last second that I realized I could do something, whether it was block, cheer from the sideline, or catch a pass. I could do something. I'm fortunate, and thankful to my family, thankful to Michael for saying, ‘it's alright. You need to go.' It's surreal that everything that took place for me at a professional level that my ultimate goal, to play in the NFC Championship game, and to have the opportunity to go into Super Bowl and fulfill a childhood dream, along with just becoming a new father, that's a lot of things bundled up in a short amount of time. It's not that I'm patting myself on the back, but I just don't know how I did it."
Joe Jurevicius said he wasn't even sure he'd play against Philadelphia, but he thinks his son's ordeal at the time helped him help his team on that particular play.
"That play kind of gets talked about," Jurevicius said of his 71-yard grab against the Eagles. " I guess I had some energy. I had a little bit of steam to burn off. I wasn't happy my kid was sick. I was just kind of getting into the flow, enjoying the atmosphere, and realizing that we had an opportunity to try and go ahead in that game and win it, and then have an opportunity to win a world championship. Things happen for a reason, and for whatever reason I was able to be a part of that game and do something that people say helped the team out. I'm not a person that gets caught up in that, but I was happy to be out there on the field. I was happy that the Tampa Bay organization won an NFC Championship Game that nobody said we could win. It was too cold, we were playing a great Philadelphia team, and they are, but for whatever reason that day some people were looking down on us and said this was going to be a good day for Tampa Bay. It turned out to be a great day. It was one day out of my life, it wasn't even 24 hours, and I was back on a plane headed home to be with Meagan and Michael."
One week later, Jurevicius hauled in four passes for 78 yards during Tampa Bay's 48-21 win over Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII. It was the first-ever Super Bowl championship for Tampa Bay and Jurevicius, and he dedicated the win and the Super Bowl ring Joe and his teammates will receive this Saturday night to Michael.
"I did (talk to him about winning the Super Bowl)," said Jurevicius. "I thanked him. There was a picture of dad next to him with a uniform on. There was a towel, and there was a uniform for him that somebody had made next to him at all times. Football is what I do, and of course I want my son to know what I do and to be proud of me, which I know he was. What's hard right now in all honesty is that we get a Super Bowl ring on Saturday, and I said that was his. It's bittersweet."
Not only will Tampa Bay's June 14th Ring Ceremony make Saturday a great, yet tough day for Joe, but Father's Day, which comes the day after, figures to be even more difficult.
"I'm looking forward to Saturday," Jurevicius said. " I personally was involved with an unbelievable team and an unbelievable year. I've quenched and satisfied my need for a championship, for a Super Bowl. We've done that. What hurts is the fact that I wish I had my son to give this ring to. I'm not going to be able to do that. What I'm not looking forward to is the day after Saturday, which is Father's Day. Meagan had to go through Mother's Day a couple of weeks ago.
"I'm still looking forward to getting a championship ring, a Super Bowl ring. You know what, my family, my friends, my wife, Michael, upstairs right now with the big guy, know that ring is mine and his. There's no doubt that ring is his. I'm not going to wear it. I'm not a fancy guy. That ring is going in the safety deposit box and, God willing, if we have another child and it's a boy that ring will be his. There's a special story that goes along with that ring, and that ring will always be Michael's. I can't wait to get it, and I might shed a tear.
"Michael knows that ring is his, and I guess I'll just have to wear it for him for a while."
As difficult as it has been for Joe and Meagan Jurevicius to cope with the loss of their first son, the couple said they'd go through it all again.
"I would do it again," said Jurevicius. "It was hard, I just really hope and pray that nobody has to go through it. Especially us right now, that's the selfish part again. Our lives were enriched. Michael had the best mother in the world. I think he had the best father in the world. I think there was a lot of good that came out of it. As reluctant as I am to say it, I'd do it again."
In fact, Joe and Meagan said Thursday that they would attempt to have another baby in the near future.
"There are definitely plans in the very near future," Joe Jurevicius said when asked if he and Meagan had plans to have another child. " Yes, we're going to try. Some people have mentioned to us that one of the only ways to help you get over this is to try and have another child and sort of divert your attention. It's not that we will ever forget about Michael, but I think if we are fortunate enough to have another boy or girl it will help us. We'll see a lot of Michael in our next child. That will be very beneficial to Meagan and I emotionally, that this is the brother or sister of Michael, and there is a lot of what he had in this particular child. There's definitely plans, and I can't wait. I loved being a father, and I still do to this day. I know Meagan loved being a mother, and our parents loved being grandparents and all the way down the line. There's definitely plans, and we're going to hope things are better the next time."
Joe and Meagan Jurevicius thanked everyone, including the Bucs organization, doctors, nurses, fans, family and friends, for the "overwhelming" support they received from around the country, especially in and around the Tampa community. Joe and Meagan have set up donations in memory of their son through the March of Dimes. If you wish to make a donation, please send it to the following address:
March of Dimes
405 N. Reo St.
Tampa, FL 33609
ATTN: Betsy Herman
*In check memo, please write the following:
"In memory of Michael William Jurevicius/Research"