Wilford Beefs Up

They say you can never go home again. Jaguars' tight end Ernest Wilford is proof that the old adage doesn't always apply, even if he played a different position in his first incarnation with the team.

Wilford spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the Jaguars after the team drafted him as a fourth-round pick out of Virginia Tech in the 2004 draft. He came in as solid 6-4, 218-pound receiver who had set the school record of 126 career receptions, including 55 for 886 yards his senior season.

He played in 15 games with three starts in his rookie season with the Jaguars, latching on to 19 catches for 271 yards and a pair of scores. His totals jumped to 41 catches and a career-high 681 yards and seven TDs the following season and became such a popular and valuable contributor to the team and community that he was the Jaguars' nominee for the Walter Payton-NFL Man of the Year Award.

But things never got much better for Wilford. He finished with 36 catches for 524 yards and two scores the following season and posted similar numbers of 45-518-3 in 2007. That's when the Jaguars gave up on him. He became an unrestricted free agent that the team chose not to sign. He instead signed on with Miami where he played in seven games and was inactive for nine contests with the Dolphins. He split his time between receiver and tight end and caught just three passes for 25 yards in three games.

Wilford was released by Miami during the 2009 preseason but re-signed with the Jaguars on August 25 prior to the start of the season. Jacksonville wanted Wilford back but not as a receiver, but rather as a tight end. He had put on over 20 pounds and started the season at 235 pounds.

It wasn't the most successful season for Wilford as he learned the tight end position. He caught just 11 passes in 15 games, including seven starts, and scored just one touchdown. But the Jaguars liked his effort and improvement at his new position. A month ago, the team signed Wilford to a one-year contract worth the veteran minimum of $630,000, a week before he would have become an unrestricted free agent.

Wilford is determined to become a success at the tight end spot.

"I'm at 240 pounds right now which is what I want to play at this season. I thought I did a good job blocking for my first year at playing at tight end," he said. "But there's always room for improvement and that's what my focus will be on this year. I want to do a really good job at the initial point of contact with my blocks.

"I've got so much power in my strike and yet I feel I've got really great speed to play tight end. I want to be in the mix where I can do a little bit of everything, almost like a Shannon Sharpe type of player."

With Jacksonville' start of offseason workouts ready to begin next week (April 5), Wilford said the goal is for the Jaguars to forget about last year's finish (a four-game losing streak to end the season which cost the team a shot at the playoffs) and work towards a successful start to the 2010 season.

"You can't worry about the past, like the four-game losing streak we ended the 2009 season on. If you live in the past then you can never go forward," he said. "We've got a great group of guys that are already working hard in the weight room without the coaches being there. We're getting accountability to each other. That's what this season will be all about, being accountable for your actions to make sure that you're in the right spot at the right time all the time."

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