Iwuh the Latest Diamond in the Rough for Jax?

The Jacksonville Jaguars have had a knack in the Jack Del Rio regime for finding undrafted free agent rookies who are good enough to make the team. They've had seven players make it in his first three seasons...

...and Del Rio gives Gene Smith, the director of college scouting, and his staff all the credit.

"Gene Smith and his staff do a great job of bringing back info. I tell them they feed us our lifeblood. We're count on them. They're out there on the road and they're kind of unsung heroes. They're away from their families and combing the country trying to find us talented players and the right kind of guys that fit our locker room. I just want to compliment them. Smith is as good as there is in the business," Del Rio.

Now the Jaguars think they may have found another diamond in the rough. He's linebacker Brian Iwuh of Colorado.

"Brian Iwuh has really stood out," Del Rio. "He's just making plays everywhere so you can't help but notice him."

Iwuh's also caught the eye of linebacker coach Mark Duffner, who said, "He's impressed me with his ability to learn and retain things. He's got excellent ability and he has quickness and good change of direction."

Iwuh had one tackle in his first preseason game in Miami. When Iwuh was growing up in Houston dreaming about being an NFL player, he was a Raider fan. He probably was on the road to being drafted when he pulled a hamstring in the fourth game of his senior year and then pulled it again in the Senior Bowl so he couldn't work out at the scouting combine.

Del Rio said, "He got an injury and he played with it so you don't look quite as good (as he would have playing healthy) and people have questions. He's an undersized guy (6-0 and 235) and all of a sudden there are a lot of questions."

The result was that he was bypassed in the draft, but the Jaguars decided to pursue him and he listened to their sales pitch. "I thought Jacksonville was a good fit for me," Iwuh said. "When the draft was over, the coaches showed a lot of interest in me, more than other teams. It was a disappointment not to get drafted but everything happens for a reason so I guess that's why it didn't happen. I just have to work harder and prove myself to everybody."

In Iwuh, they found a mature player even though he's only 22. "I've dealt with a lot more personal things than most people," he said.

When he was a freshman in college, his stepfather died. Shortly thereafter, his older brother died suddenly when his lungs collapsed. He was suffering from kidney failure and didn't know it.

"We fought through it and actually became closer as a family," he said of the ordeal he endured with his mother and sister. After what he's experienced, he can deal with fighting for a roster spot.

"It's easy for me to focus on this. I've dealt with a lot more difficult things," he said.

He doesn't lack self-confidence.

Iwuh said, "I always believe that I can do anything I want to. I always believed after the draft that if I got a shot, I was going to make the team. I believe in myself."

The Jaguars have a starting job open because Akin Ayodele departed for Dallas, but his best chance of making it will probably be on special teams.


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