Respect isn't given, it's earned.
That adage rings true for new Jaguars strong safety Barry Church.
The veteran defensive back had to earn his place in the NFL the hard way. He started his career with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo. He finished it as a tenured starter and captain.
Now entering his eighth season, Church is an NFL success story. His professional narrative has been watched closely by Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell.
“This is a guy I know well from college," Caldwell said at Church's introductory press conference on Friday.
"We tried to sign him when I was in Atlanta as a college free agent and he decided to go to Dallas. But he is an undrafted free agent that was a four-time defensive captain for the Dallas Cowboys, which tells you all you need to know about that guy. “
While Church wasn't among the big names commonly associated with this free agent class, the Jaguars made his acquisition a clear priority.
"Obviously, we had our targets and we felt like two of our main targets that we could get were on the defense side of the ball and we got those two big guys," Caldwell said. "Barry, we weren’t sure if he could get out of Dallas, and once we realized they weren’t going to be able to re-sign him that was our objective."
The interest was mutual for the Jaguars and Church.
After completing a remarkable 13-3 season with a rookie quarterback at the helm, Church wasn't turned off by the Jaguars' lack of recent success or youthful core of talent.
“When I was taking my opportunity to look at teams in free agency, I kind of went down the roster in Jacksonville and just saw how much talent they have at such a young age," Church said.
"It’s a young hungry team on all three sides of the game, which is special teams, offense [and] defense. So just coming in here and bringing my [veteran] leadership to work, hopefully we can get these guys, this team going in the right direction. Like I said, they all the talent in the world, we’ve just got to buy in and things will get done.”
While the Jaguars are young, Church doesn't believe the lack of experience is a bad thing. He has seen success with young teams and lost with veteran groups.
He hopes to pass on veteran knowledge to his new teammates. The Jaguars clearly view him as a new leader in the secondary and Church has accepted that challenge.
"[Youth] is definitely not an excuse," Church said. "You can come in here and have all the accolades in the world, but if you don't put [in] the work on the field, it's not going to mean anything. That's the type of mentality I hope to bring to this team. To be successful in life, you have to put the work in. Nothing is going to be just handed to you so hopefully I can bring that same mentality here."
The Jaguars plan to use Church interchangeably with free safety Tashaun Gipson. He will replace Johnathan Cyprien, who many in the organization viewed as just a box safety.
"I think [Church is] very good in the box," Caldwell said. "But he’s got more than enough athleticism and speed to be in the deep half there too.”
Cyprien signed a multi-year deal with the Tennessee Titans shortly after Church was added to the Jaguars' roster. With Church in the lineup, the front office can now focus on other needs early on in the draft.
Instead of being forced to look at safeties like LSU's Jamal Adams or Ohio State's Malik Hooker with the fourth overall pick, the team can take the best available player.
“We want to go into the draft with a clean slate and be able to pick the best player available," Caldwell said. "When you’re picking in the top five then you should be able to do that.”
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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