Don't overlook Jaguars' Underwood;Second-year player begins to emerge after performance vs. Colts.
Tiquan Underwood was disappointed and "humbled" when he wasn't selected until the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
As it turned out, the wide receiver from Rutgers feels fortunate the Jaguars were the team that selected him.
"I'm just happy I landed here," he said. "No matter what round it was."
That's because veteran Torry Holt was with the Jaguars last year, and Underwood was one of the players he mentored.
"I learned how to be a pro. I learned how to work at your craft. I still speak to him," Underwood said.
Holt texted him Sunday after Underwood made several key plays in the fourth quarter to help the Jaguars upset the Colts 31-28 and possibly save the season.
"He said good game, and then he said no matter how good it gets or how bad it gets, continue to work," Underwood said.
Underwood's passion for working hard is his calling card.
Underwood said he first got his work ethic from his aunt, Kheesha Underwood-Shorts, and his uncle, Daikiel Shorts, who took him in when he was a small boy and raised him in Franklin Township, N.J.
"They said if you want anything in life, you have to work for it," he said.
Then Holt taught him the importance of always working.
"He said there is no such a thing as an off day," Underwood said. "He took it to another level."
Receivers coach Todd Monken said, "Torry was a big influence on all of those guys."
Underwood is one of many players who comes in on Tuesdays to watch film and work out. He likes to catch balls from the Jugs machines in series of 10.
He uses hard work to overcome the fact that at 6-foot-1 and 183 pounds he's not exactly the prototype size for a wide receiver.
"It's just like somebody like Maurice [Jones-Drew], a guy that's shorter. They're not the prototypical pro athlete," quarterback David Garrard said. "Even myself. Guys like that always have to work a little extra and do a little more to get noticed. That shows a lot of kids that you don't have to be the prototypical player or as physically gifted as a lot of people, but as long as you apply yourself, work as hard as you can and do extra, you can be great."
Taking advantage of an injury to rookie Deji Karim, Underwood has also contributed as a kick returner. Underwood's 39-yard return helped set up a fourth-quarter touchdown against the Colts. He followed that with a 29-yard return on the game's final drive in which Josh Scobee kicked a 59-yard field goal to win it.
"I love returning kicks," Underwood said. "It's fun. It's another opportunity to get the ball in your hands. That is what it is all about."
As a receiver, Underwood, who entered the game with one reception, made three key plays in the winning drive. He caught passes of 6 and 22 yards to put the Jaguars in long-range field-goal position.
And on the play before Scobee's kick, Underwood prevented the Colts' Kelvin Hayden from making an interception on a poorly thrown Garrard pass.
"I think the defender felt him there. I think he had already started to bobble it, and Tiquan showed good hustle trying to stop him from getting it," Monken said. "Him being there was obviously a factor."
After a rookie season in which Underwood only played three games, he seems to be ready to make an impact this year.
Last year, "he wasn't as comfortable with the offense, and we probably weren't as comfortable with him," Monken said.
Underwood still has only four catches on the season and plays behind Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas as a third receiver. But if Underwood keeps making plays, he will become more of a factor in the offense.
"He's always performed well in practice, and with each success he has, he gains more confidence and us in him,. His role will expand,'' Monken said. "But you just can't force it because Mike Thomas and Mike Sims-Walker are playing well. There are only so many balls to go around, but he will continue to get his opportunities.''
JAGUARS AT BILLS
When: 1 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.
TV/Radio: CBS; WOKV (690 AM, 106.5 FM).
Records: Jaguars are 2-2; Bills are 0-4.