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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It might seem like the Jacksonville Jaguars have little faith in center Mike Brewster.
They passed on the former Ohio State standout numerous times in the 2012 NFL draft before signing him as an undrafted free agent. They talked veteran Brad Meester into sticking around for a 14th season in 2013. They signed Pro Bowler Alex Mack to a five-year, $42 million offer sheet in April that Cleveland quickly matched.
They even gave journeyman Jacques McClendon, who has been waived seven times the last three years, repetitions with the first-team offense this week.
Brewster, who has yet to take a snap in a regular-season game, was mostly unfazed by it all.
"I want to be pushed, and they want to push me," Brewster said Friday, adding that he has been told to not "read into any of it as the wrong message."
Instead, Brewster expects to be the team's opening-day starter and long-term option at center.
"I would have loved to started at center my first two years," Brewster said. "But I think at this point in time, I'm physically and mentally the most ready. I was a little raw still, my technique and stuff. I've definitely grown up a lot.
"I'd rather start two years later and be very effective than start too early and not be really good at what I want to do long term."
The Jaguars certainly hope Brewster becomes a solid piece of a revamped line.
Jacksonville moved Luke Joeckel, the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, to left tackle last season, signed guard Zane Beadles to a five-year, $30 million deal in March and drafted guard Brandon Linder in the third round of May's NFL draft. Along with Brewster and right tackle Austin Pasztor, they could be the key to helping Jacksonville improve one of the league's worst offenses.
"I think people are going to be surprised this year," Brewster said. "We won't be."
Many were surprised Brewster went undrafted.
He was a four-year starter with the Buckeyes, a team captain, a first-team All-American as a junior and a finalist for the prestigious Remington Award, which is given annually to the nation's best center. Despite the accolades and some projections that he would be an early round pick in the draft, Brewster returned for his senior year.
It wasn't his best decision.
Coach Jim Tressel abruptly resigned in May, and the Buckeyes finished 6-6 under interim coach Luke Fickell.
"It was a hard year," Brewster said. "It was the first time I ever failed in my life. I just wanted to come back my senior year and help the team, but we were awful. I was playing with all freshmen, and we got blitzed three out of four downs.
"It was crazy."
The drafted was an even bigger head-scratcher for Brewster.
He figured Ohio State's record would affect his draft stock, but he never anticipated he would get passed over so many times.
"It hurt my pride," he said. "But I was never like, 'Oh, man, it's going to be hard to do it.' I know what I have."
He chose to sign with Jacksonville because of Meester's uncertain future, made the team as an undrafted rookie and even started seven games at guard in 2012. When Meester decided to play another season in 2013, Brewster was stuck in a backup role again.
He ended up starting three games at guard before breaking his left ankle and finishing the season on injured reserve.
Still, Brewster had plenty to look forward to after Meester called it quits. His optimism didn't last long.
Jacksonville tried to lure Mack away from the Browns by offering him $26 million guaranteed — $7 million more than any other center in football.
Brewster said he was upset.
"I can't beat a guy out that's getting paid 40 million dollars. There's not going to be any competition there," Brewster said. " It's done. And I didn't really want to play guard again."
It turned out to be much ado about nothing as Cleveland matched Jacksonville's offer, preventing Mack from switching teams. It also left Brewster in line to be a starter — finally.
"Brew has done an awesome job," interim offensive line coach Luke Butkus said. "I'm excited to see him strictly play center for us."
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