The Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Everbank Field, Friday in the first preseason game of the 2015 season.
Many of the attending fans are young people who never knew Jacksonville without the Jags.
Pat Donnell is a Jaguars fan. He says he grew up with the team.
Donnell recalls the 1996 Jaguars win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. “Brunell came in [and] saved the day,” Donnell said.
“Me and my dad ... when I was little, [would] hop in the truck and drive down to the stadium, eat peanuts, throw them out the window. So that was always fun,” he said.
Donnell says he doesn’t really remember life without the Jaguars. He’s part of a dedicated fan base of millennials who own their love for the 20-year-old team. Some of them have coined the term “Generation Jaguar.”
“I'm going to cheer my head off,” Donnell said. “I'm going to support them no matter what, it's our team. There's no going back from it. “
And Jaguars staff notices the passion from millennials, says marketing VP Steve Ziff.
“Younger fans, I think, are a little different in that they want to see a little bit more,” Ziff said. “They want more access, they want to be behind the scenes more and they want to know more about the players and their lives.”
He says young fans want to interact. That’s why at games fans' social media photos appear on the scoreboard.
“So fans are rewarded with the ability to kind of take pictures and curate their experience from inside the stadium,” Ziff said.
And there’s a Jaguars-themed texting keyboard fans can download on their phones to add some team spirit to their conversations.
Ziff says the emojis aren’t just just team colors, a lot of thought was put into their creation. “Like for example the Scobee Firehouse Sub emoji,” Ziff said.
That's because when player Josh Scobee kicks a field goal of at least 40 yards, fans can redeem a free meal with their ticket stub.
Ziff says more behind-the-scenes content is on the way. He says his marketing team is making an effort to make Jaguars fan life, year-round, not just during football season.
And a lot of these 20-something Jaguar fans have formed communities. There’s a “Generation Jaguar” blog, and popular fan groups that attend games together, like Teal Street Hooligans and the Bold City Brigade.
That super-fan Pat Donnell is a Vice President of the Bold City Brigade and so is Tim Mcgugan. Mcgugan says last year they signed up nearly 3,500 members, and the club began in 2012.
The group tailgates together and cheers together in same seating section. But he says it’s not only about football.
“So it's not just Jaguars, it's Jacksonville, it's a combination of both. Both were kind of under the radar at the time and people were disrespecting the team and disrespecting the city all in one sentence if you read a national article. And we were sick and tired of it honestly. It’s time to stand up.”
The Brigade’s slogan is “Duval ‘Til We Die,” it’s chanted in their Youtube video, and stamped on their shirts. Their logo is that phrase under a teal Jacksonville skyline on top of a black shield.
But those aren’t the only fan-designed tees popping up at games.
Austin Ellis sells his screen-printed designs at the games, and makes shirts for the fan group Teal Street Hooligans.
“I hated everything that you know Reebok was doing, or that you could buy at any of the sports retailers around town,” Ellis said. “They were just boring and they weren't me at all.”
He’s printing a design that looks like something a punk band would sell at a back corner table during a show. There’s a photo of a former Jaguar player Jimmy Smith going crazy with fans at a tailgate.
Ellis said “And on top it says when we bleed, we will bleed teal and black.”
He says he started off just selling shirts to his friends at shows where hardcore bands played.
“It started off if I sold 10 shirts I was excited, that was woah I can't believe I did this,” Ellis said.
His most popular design was one mimicking the popular logo used for the hip-hop group RUN DMC, but he changed “DMC” to “MJD,” after the former Jaguar running back, Maurice Jones Drew.
“I think almost every sports shop in town carried it at one point,” Ellis said.
He says he used to print a lot of shirts with player puns, but now he cares more about printing Jacksonville-pride designs.
“No one thought we had a chance to get to where we got and that's just what being a Jags fan is to me,” Ellis said. “It's just being the underdog. It's always having people try to step on you and spit on you and always figuring out a way to overcome it, even if it's not necessarily by wins. But you can't let your pride get hurt, and that's very much what being a Jags fan and a civilian of Jacksonville is to me.”
Tonight he’s printing 200 shirts and he expects to sell more than 50 at Friday’s game.