Leftwich is the guy I wanted last year. I wasn't disappointed in the Newman selection, but Lefty was my guy. Good article on him below. I really like Drew too and hope he can reach the high expectations I have for him. *********************** Leftwich out to prove the early bird gets -- great May 9, 2004 By Pete Prisco SportsLine.com Senior Writer Tell Pete your opinion! When 5 a.m. and any young NFL quarterback loaded with riches are mentioned in the same sentence, it's usually not a good thing. That is, unless your name is Byron Leftwich. As a 24-year-old starting quarterback for the Jaguars, Leftwich is usually going at a time when some of his teammates and, perhaps other starting quarterbacks, might be coming home. Even in the offseason, when it would be appropriate to stay out until the wee hours of the morning in search of the temptations that a man with his bank account can find, Leftwich hits the sack early each night, all to make sure he's up with the paper boy to start his day in his preparation for greatness. Work ethic? Nobody will ever question Leftwich's. "I'm a morning guy," said Leftwich. "I like getting in here and getting the day started. I love watching film. I get here early in the morning, get in the quarterbacks room, and just close the door and watch tape. I don't just watch what I've done or what we've done, but I watch other teams, too. I love football. If I weren't playing in the league, I'd watch the NFL Network all day anyway. That's just who I am." It's also why he's destined for greatness. Jaguars officials marvel at the kid's desire to be the best. In only his second season, with 13 NFL starts last year as a rookie, Leftwich yearns to be the best -- and puts in the work to get there. There are no corners being cut, no shortcuts being taken. Just head on over to Alltel Stadium some day at 6 a.m. and peek into the quarterback room for all the proof of that you need. You'll see a solitary figure, clicker in his hand, rewinding plays over and over again in search of the little things that the best passers find. For NFL quarterbacks, seeing it is believing it. "At this time of the year I don't always get there as early as I do during the season, but I still make sure it gets done," said Leftwich. "I also spend a lot of time with (offensive coordinator) Bill Musgrave in his office, just picking his brain. It's what you have to do to get better." And that is what drives Leftwich. He doesn't just want to be good, and he doesn't want to wait to be great. He wants it all now. With Mark Brunell gone, Byron Leftwich will be the Jaguars' official starting quarterback.(AP) You know that talk about quarterbacks waiting until they are in their late 20s to truly understand the position and move to that level of greatness? Leftwich isn't satisfied with that. Listening to him, one thinks he might be right, too. "I know what it takes to be successful in this league, and I want to speed up the process," said Leftwich. "They say quarterbacks can be good three years from now. I don't buy that. Why not now? Why can't I be the guy who breaks the rule?" At the Jaguars minicamp 10 days ago, Leftwich looked sharp in the early going, clearly a more confident passer. But then he hit his hand on the helmet of a teammate during a drill, injuring two fingers on his passing hand. It will keep him out of some work in the next month, but he is expected to be ready to go for the open of training camp. "I don't think it's anything major," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said that day. Leftwich was the seventh player taken in the 2003 NFL Draft, the second quarterback selected after the Bengals took USC's Carson Palmer with the first pick. The Jaguars picked him to build their team around. With veteran Mark Brunell having one foot out the door to start the 2003 season, it was only a matter of time before Leftwich would take over. It came much sooner than later. When Brunell injured a hand in the third game of the season, Leftwich came off the bench to throw his first NFL touchdown, starting on a path that would lead to Brunell being traded to Washington -- he was never coming back this year anyway -- and Leftwich starting the remainder of the season. Taking over for Brunell, the team's starter since the first year in 1995, led to some anti-Leftwich feelings around the city. It didn't help that he was a bit standoffish with some of his teammates early, leading to the talk that he was "Cryin Byron." Later, as he struggled, came the nickname Ryan Leafwich, a reference to quarterback bust Ryan Leaf. It was funny then, but the reality is this kid has no chance of being a flop. He does what Leaf never did: He cares about being great. And he enters his second season with a big edge on Palmer. He played. "I'm a firm believer that the only way to learn is to play," said Leftwich. "You have to go out and become better. You learn in game situations. It's like with your job. You can read all the books you want, but until you get out and ask the questions to get the answers you don't know what you are doing. It's the same for quarterbacks. You might understand the offense, but until you get on the field and actually run it, you'll never know how good you can be or what you need to work on to get better." Coming out of Marshall, where he was an explosive passer in the team's up-tempo offense, there was talk that his motion was too long and his release point too low. The Jaguars were said to have fiddled some with it in camp last summer, but when the rookie looked out of sync, he was allowed to go back to his original style. Leftwich denies there was a throwing motion issue but said he will do anything to be a better player. "I just think people are making stuff up," he said. "I haven't changed my throwing motion. I have tried to be better at keeping two hands on the ball at all times. Other than that, I haven't tried to change my motion." In his 13 starts last year, Leftwich completed 57.2 percent of his passes for 2,819 yards and 14 touchdowns. But he also threw 16 interceptions -- which can be expected for a rookie starter -- and fumbled 11 times, losing six. That fumble number is a big reason why he's so cognizant this offseason about keeping two hands on the ball. He is also working to get the ball out quicker, which is what the film work will help him do. Understanding where to go quicker is one way to speed up the release process. One major thing that has changed for Leftwich is his body. When he came into the league, he was a flabby kid who needed some work. He said he played at 252 last year, which isn't that bad a weight for a man who stands 6-feet-5, but he looked overweight. It's now easy to see he's in much better shape. As he leaned against a wall inside Alltel Stadium recently, Leftwich talked about the change, although giving out weight specifics was not something he wanted to do. "It's between 240 and 245," Leftwich said. "Let's leave it at that." He looks even lighter and is visibly tighter in the upper body area while not appearing to be as doughy in the midsection. "I'm learning how to take care of my body," Leftwich said. "When you're a rookie, you just don't know those things. You go home and stop at Taco Bell. I'm eating right now, not to lose weight but to take care of my body. When I get to Week 13 this year, I want to feel good. I'm a big guy, so unless you're a basketball player, you're not going to be my size and weight 200 pounds. They're born that way. But I'm trying to train my body to be functional for the long term." Leftwich has a bevy of quality skilled people around to help him. He had explosive Fred Taylor in the backfield and veteran receiver Jimmy Smith outside last year, but the addition of first-round pick Reggie Williams gives him an additional big-play receiver. The Jaguars want to run the ball effectively and then use play-action down the field. As the coaches get more comfortable with Leftwich, you will see a shift toward more first-down passing and more spread sets. But with a coach in Del Rio with a defensive background, and a defense that made major strides as the season moved on last year, ball control and good defense is the way the Jaguars want to win. Being able to wing it around with Leftwich is a luxury that they know they can lean on when forced to. Add it all up, and it has led to playoff talk in Jacksonville, which is saying something since this is a team that hasn't had a winning season since 1999. "I'm anxious to see what kind of team we have," said Leftwich. "We know we have good players, but it's up to us. All the weight is on all of our shoulders. All these people saying we might be a playoff team means nothing if we don't work hard. That's what will get us there." And that's why rising at 5 a.m. on a May morning, when staying in the sack might suit many others, is so important for a young quarterback striving to be the best. Speeding up the road to greatness can't happen in bed. "You don't have to wait until 30 to be great," said Leftwich. "When you get to be 30, they'll say you're too damn old anyway. I don't want to wait. I want to be the best as quickly as I can."