JagNation: How often do you play golf?
Vic: During the season, I rarely play; maybe during the bye week or if someone invites me to play and the schedule allows it. The in-season routine is intense for everybody. Anybody who follows my work during the season knows I spend long hours at it, especially on radio-show days, such as Monday and Wednesday. I like to be at my desk by no later than 6:45 a.m. each day so I can tackle "Ask Vic" before the phone starts to ring. In the offseason, I've always played a lot more golf and always set aside a couple of weeks in late-June, early-July to go on a golf trip with friends. We call it "golf camp." I'm having problems with my neck these days, however, and it's really cut down my golf time.
JagNation: What are your favorite courses?
Vic: You can't find a bad course in Jacksonville. I have a friend who lives in Sawgrass and he arranges some golf there for a little group we have. I love the two Hampton courses, North and South. I've played most of the courses in Jacksonville, from the Stadium Course and Pablo Creek to Pine Lakes near the airport and I love them all. Someone took me to Timuquana recently; great course. The toughest course in Jacksonville, in my opinion, is Windsor Parke. I don't think I've ever had a good round there. Palencia is dynamite. It has a lot of tricked-up greens, as does The Slammer and the Squire at the World Golf Village. The King and The Bear is a very golfer-friendly course that can play as tough or as easy as you'd like to make it. The Ponte Vedra Inn and Club Ocean Course is sensational and the Lagoon Course is a delightful change of pace. I hate to leave any course out. I've also had the chance to play some world-renown courses and I'd love to some day make the trek to Scotland. Oakmont is my all-time favorite course, which only makes sense since it has hosted more U.S. Opens than any other course. Playing there is different from playing anywhere else. When the Jaguars played in Arizona last year, I played the TPC course at Scottsdale, which marked the first time I've ever played a desert course. It was different. You can score the desert courses. The bottom line is that I love playing golf in Jacksonville and so do my friends, who visit often, especially in the winter.
JagNation: If you could do anything else as an occupation, what would it be?
Vic: I passed up an opportunity when I was young to work toward becoming a football coach. My high school coach wanted me to pursue coaching and he had it set up for me to learn under someone at a small college, but I had other aspirations in mind. I won't say it was a mistake because I've never missed a meal or a bill. Sportswriting has treated me very well and it's paid a lot of college tuition. If you wanna talk fantasyland stuff, I think I would like to have been born with a bigger brain so I could've become a doctor. I can't imagine any career more rewarding than one that heals. I have great respect and admiration for doctors, especially the ones who put healing above financial gain.
JagNation: What sports star would you love to interview but never had the opportunity and why?
Vic: I can't say there is one. I even had a chance to play golf with Johnny Unitas at a charity golf tournament in Pittsburgh a year before he passed away. What a treat that was. The guy was so crippled he could barely put his hands on the club but every shot he hit was right on the button. Don't ever think these guys aren't great athletes. Even the ones who appear to be more ordinary are anything but ordinary. After 18 holes of golf that day, I realized Unitas was a great athlete whose athletic ability was camouflaged by those black hightops. The players I've had a chance to cover and interview have completely satisfied any desires I took into my sportswriting career. I got lucky early. I gotta chance early in my career to cover a great player, Joe Greene, who loved to talk about football. Joe set the standard for how I think all athletes should behave with the media. Covering the Jaguars, I achieved that level of conversation with Tony Boselli. Covering the Jaguars, Tony was my Joe Greene. Mark Brunell was great to cover and, believe me when I tell you this, they don't get any better than Byron Leftwich.
JagNation: Why are you so obsessed with hotdogs?
Vic: It's just schtick, folks. I find so many fans who dislike the media because we don't know anything about football and we never played the game and we don't know what it's like to be a fan because we get our "ticket" to the game for free and we sit in air-conditioned or heated comfort. Free hot dogs are just a way of re-enforcing that stereotype; you know, rubbing it in a little bit to get readers riled up. It's my way of cutting up with readers and having a little fun with them. The whole notion of sportswriters being fans is preposterous. This is what I do for a living. This is what I spent four years in college learning to do. I'm not going to pay to work. Free hot dogs are just a press box tradition. I like to poke fun at it. Frankly, you wouldn't eat most of the dogs I see in press boxes. It may be a conspiracy to kill sportswriters. I like to joke with people.
JagNation: Who is your favorite interview? Least favorite?
Vic: Byron Leftwich is always a great interview. I've always liked to talk to Fred Taylor. I know how to push his buttons and I think he likes to have them pushed. I respect Fred a lot. Mike Peterson is a great guy and always a dynamite interview. Mike is a man's man. Talk about pushing buttons? Oh, could I push Keenan McCardell's buttons. I once hinted in a story that he may have lost a step, which really angered him, as I knew it would. That prompted him to come to me and tell me how he hadn't lost a step, which gave me another story. Two for one, huh? It's an old sportswriter trick. For the next several weeks, every time he did something in a game he'd come to me to ask me what I thought, which gave me more good quotes for my story. I've never known a player who took more pride in his work and was more sensitive about people's perceptions of it than Keenan was and, I'm sure, still is. I like guys like that; guys who really care about their performance and how it's perceived. I like guys who like to banter with the media. My least favorite interview is any player who just doesn't have much to say, especially those players who don't say much because they don't think it's important to communicate with the fans. I dislike that very much. Sportswriters are means by which players may communicate with fans. In my opinion, any player who dodges the media is dodging the fans.
JagNation: When did you realize you were going to be a sports journalist?
Vic: When I realized I wasn't good enough to keep playing baseball.
JagNation: How did you come about getting the job with Jaguars, and did you have any initial regrets accepting the job as the senior writer for a baby franchise?
Vic: I covered the Steelers for a long time, beginning as a college intern in the training camp of 1972. That's a great franchise in a great football town and I was so fortunate for the experiences I accumulated there. I'm also fortunate for the relationship I established with Dan Edwards, who was the Steelers' PR guy for 10 of the years I covered the Steelers. When Dan left the Steelers to become the Jaguars' director of communications, he came to me about starting the Jaguars' team newspaper. It was a thrilling challenge, which was just what I needed at the mid-point stage of a career, when it can start to get a little stale. I loved Art Rooney and I loved the stories he told about the early days of the NFL and the Steelers. I loved that pioneer spirit and joining an expansion franchise gave me the only opportunity I would have to experience the same thing. The greatest attraction for me in coming to Jacksonville was that I would be here from the very beginning and one day I could tell the same start-up stories "The Chief" – that's what we called him – told. It was a great disappointment for me when Jaguars Inside Report ceased publishing after the Jaguars' ninth season, but I was, again, very fortunate, because jaguars.com burst onto the scene and I was in the right place at the right time. My first playoff game was the Immaculate Reception. I've had a lot of that kind of luck in my career. Regrets? None. I have great memories and great friends from Pittsburgh and new memories and new friends from my time in Jacksonville. This is my hometown now.
JagNation: Do you think Jimmy retiring at the time he did, on the top of his game and not going the Jerry Rice route, will help his Hall of Fame bid?
Vic: Jimmy's got one major problem in his bid to get into the Hall of Fame: He lacks a defining moment. Hines Ward had that defining moment in the most recent Super Bowl, when he caught that touchdown pass from Antwaan Randle El and then won the Super Bowl MVP. That'll probably get Ward into the Hall of Fame, if he plays well for a few more years. Marvin Harrison is a guy who also lacks a defining moment. What Harrison has going for him is that he's the guy who caught Peyton Manning's passes. That'll probably get him into the Hall of Fame. Look at the numbers these kids are putting up at wide receiver. Look at what Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are doing statistically. Their numbers are going to push everyone down the all-time list. What about Rod Smith? Where does it end at wide receiver? Jimmy is much in the same situation as Art Monk. They each have great stats but they each lack a defining moment. That's going to make it tough for Jimmy to get in. If he has anything going for him it's that he's really the only bona fide candidate the Jaguars will have for a long time.
JagNation: Now that Jimmy is gone, if you had to guess the wide receiver depth chart, what would it be?
Vic: Ernest Wilford and Matt Jones with the first unit, Reggie Williams and Cortez Hankton with the number two group, and Chad Owens with the third unit. I like it that way because it's according to production. Now, what does it mean? Nothing. As I wrote, put them all into a bottle, shake them up and see who comes out first. No more favoring guys because they're first-round picks; those days are over. You gotta do it now. I think that's what Jimmy's retirement means. The Jaguars don't have Jimmy to bail them out any longer.
JagNation: Do you think the Jaguars knew Jimmy would retire after he first talked to them about it after the New England game, and that is why they went the route they did in the draft? Taking a pass catching TE in the 1st round over DeMeco Ryans, and Maurice Drew in the 2nd over Abdul Hodge or Charles Spencer? A pass catching TE and a RB who is threat catching out of the backfield are two good ways to try to replace the QB's old security blanket.
Vic: I think you're over-analyzing the situation. I don't think the Jaguars felt as great a need to react to Jimmy's retirement as you're suggesting. It's a young man's game. It was time to move on. The Jaguars have known for some time they had to move on at wide receiver. In my opinion, they drafted Marcedes Lewis for two reasons: 1.) He was the guy they liked best among the players available. 2.) They're nearing decision time on Byron Leftwich and you want to be able to say you gave him all of the weapons he needs to be successful.
JagNation: In terms of hard-hitting ability and the tendency to create fumbles, where does Brian Williams rank among the other cornerbacks in the league?
Vic: I know nothing about him other than what I've been told. Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith is certain Brian Williams is a player. The Jaguars have no doubt the guy can play. Did they overpay? Sure they did, but you're going to overpay at that position. You've got to have a lot of good coverage people to be successful in today's game. Sixty percent of the Jaguars' defensive snaps last year were against three-WR sets. That means they had at least three cornerback-caliber coverage guys in the game 60 percent of the time. Williams is coming into the prime years of his career. He's an upside guy.
JagNation: What role(s) do you see Derrick Wimbush fulfilling next year?
Vic: That's a great question and I don't want to limit him. How about feature back? Yeah, that's a long shot but the kid showed some extreme ability last year. He's got great power and shiftiness. He loves to drop his pads and I consider him to be a courageous runner. My only knock on him is that I don't think he'll be a pass-catcher, but that doesn't bother me in the least. Everyone talks about Greg Jones. In my opinion, Wimbush is just as strong a runner but he has better feet and natural running skills. This is someone I wanna watch. I just hope that, coming out of a small college, the NFL game isn't too big for him. Don't forget that Willie Parker was an undrafted guy and he now holds the record for the longest touchdown run in Super Bowl history.
JagNation Q&A: Vic Ketchman
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