CREATED Aug. 18, 2013
He was on the field for a mere 15 snaps. I could have sworn, watching the game, he was playing for almost all of the Packers' 19-7 win over St. Louis Saturday night.
I admit, I've been rooting for Jolly to make the team. His story is a compelling one.
Out of football for three years, prison time, suspended by the NFL, keeping his nose clean and battling his addiction while endlessly waiting (it seemed to me, and I'll bet it seemed worse to him) for Roger Goodell to figure out that he deserved another chance.
He had to be wondering if the Green Bay Packers would really give him another chance. I suspect he was in touch with Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson often over the last three years.
However, football is a business, and however personally supportive I'm sure both men were of his efforts to regain his life, at the end of the day one never knows what the needs of the Packers will dictate in terms of personnel moves.
Jolly was smart. He accepted the fact he would need to accept the veteran minimum to even be considered to make the team this year. He prepared as best he could, yet came into camp a little out of shape...football shape, anyway, as he acknowledged.
Three years out of the game is a long time, even if one has focused on getting healthy and staying in shape. The only way to be in football shape is to actually play football.
I worried about Jolly through the summer and as Training Camp began. Would he be able to do it? Could he really regain the skills he displayed when he played before?
Not only could Jolly use this success as additional fuel for his recovery, but the Packers sure as heck could use a skilled defensive end. It would be the best of both worlds if forces aligned and we all got what we wanted.
Forces aligned Saturday night.
Jolly played very well. He was positive, disciplined, and focused.
When he intercepted the ball, the entire Packers bench erupted in celebration, and Aaron Rodgers of all people raced along the side of the field cheering like a fan.
Everyone in Curly's Pub where I watched the game clapped and screamed with joy. It felt right to be at Lambeau Field watching Johnny Jolly achieve his goal, and celebrating with him and the team at his success.
Does he have to continue to improve and refine his regained skills? Yes. And he will do it as a member of the Green Bay Packers.
Welcome back, Mr. Jolly. We've missed you.