It doesn't seem like long ago when the Jaguars reigned supreme. Two trips to the AFC Championship Game in 1996 and 1999 caught the football world by surprise as the young Jacksonville franchise went from expansion team to championship contender in a period of just one season. During those amazing runs, right tackle, Leon Searcy was in the heart of things, paving the way not only for running backs, but the teams' success as well.
"We (the 1996 team) started off slow, as it took time for the offensive line to gel. Once we did, our offense really took off, next several years" said Searcy, who teamed with the likes of Tony Boselli to form one of the best offensive lines in the game.
Searcy describes the moment when the Jaguars arrived back home after defeating the Denver Broncos (in 1996) en route to their first AFC Championship Game as one of his greatest football moments ever. "There was no better feeling then coming back and seeing 50,000 fans waiting for you, cheering us on."
The two-time Pro Bowler began his Jacksonville career in the off-season before that miraculous season when he signed the largest contract ever for an offensive lineman. "In 1995 I was still young, and money played a big part in my decision. I am humbler now, and I can honestly say that I had a great time in Jacksonville."
Life after Jacksonville has had it's up and downs for Searcy. He was a cap casualty after the 2000 season, with injuries being a large factor in his release. Searcy signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, but was released again after upper arm tears cut another season short. He tried to make things work one more time in Miami, but he was far from the dominant mauler who helped make the Jaguars one of the most feared teams in the NFL. At first, Searcy had a difficult time validating the series of career ending injuries. "The Good Lord has a plan. Initially it was deflating and bothersome for me. I had never been seriously injured for my whole career, and I couldn't understand why it was happening now. I finally realized that everything happens for a reason, and it was time to go, time for me to move one with my career."
After his retirement, Searcy found a home at Florida International University in 2004. Serving as the offensive line coach, Searcy recaptured the passion that he felt when battling in the trenches. "I loved sharing my experiences with a younger generation, showing them different aspects of the sport. It was gratifying to just see these young guys learning the game and appreciating it."
The FIU Panthers fell on hard times in 2006, going 0-12. As anyone can imagine, it was a difficult year, especially for such a young team that was still transitioning to a higher level of play after joining Division-1A just a couple of years before. "I hated losing. As a coach, I found myself responsible, and there were a lot of times I found myself praying," he says with a laugh. Searcy and the rest of the staff were let go following the winless season, but Searcy took pride in the job he accomplished with such a young offensive line. "A lot of people forget that we were just down 7-0 to Miami after the fight. That season we lost five of our first six games by a sum of 14 points total. It just wasn't meant to be."
Searcy is currently keeping his fingers crossed, looking for a new coaching job at the collegiate or pro level. He thought was close to landing a gig at his Alma Mata (University of Miami), when a former teammate of his, Randy Shannon took over, but they went with someone more experienced. "I have to pay my dues, but I know I will get looked at again, because I have a lot of experience to offer. I enjoy coaching young men who have a passion to learn. Right now, I'm addicted to coaching; it keeps me passionate, keeps me fueled, and I'd love to do it again."
While he his waiting for another chance to coach, Searcy is certainly keeping himself busy. For financial purposes, he is playing the real-estate game, renovating, buying and selling houses. "Boring as hell," says Searcy. "It's for the birds."
Searcy also has several passion projects that he is working on. He had formed the Leon Searcy Jr. Foundation when he was a player, but the charity aimed to helping the underprivileged has faded slightly because he has had to take a step down financially following his retirement and multiple surgeries. Searcy still contributes, and his father does a lot of work in the Jacksonville area today. Currently, he is involved with "Respect", an organization located in south Florida, aimed to teaching young men about the ways of God. Paired with FIU Chaplin, Steve Lance, Searcy has spread the word of his Lord, and is excited to share his experiences with young men all across the South East.
Ironically, things took a turn for the worse for the Jaguars after they let Searcy go. While things are currently looking up for the franchise, they are with Searcy too, as he is networking himself through football camps aimed for high school players, something he is also very passionate about. "I enjoy teaching young men about life, about football. I share with them the experiences that have molded me, the good times and the bad." While there have been plenty of good times for Searcy, and some frustrating times as well, he is continuing to better himself daily and more importantly the people around him as well.
Where Are They Now? Leon Searcy
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