In his 4 1/2 years spent in Jacksonville, Fla., Luke Joeckel got used living near the beach, year-round golf and frequenting his two favorite seafood hangouts — Palm Valley Fish Camp and Safe Harbor Seaford Restaurant.
Life is surely different now.
After being the No. 2 overall pick out of Texas A&M by the Jaguars in 2013, and spending four seasons in the AFC South, Joeckel signed a one-year free-agent deal with the Seahawks last offseason.
As Joeckel is finding out, living in Seattle late in the fall, there is no Florida warmth to bask in on off days. There is coffee. And lots of it.
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“There are so many great places in Seattle,” said Joeckel, who now calls Dallas home in the offseason. “I have not found my go-to place yet. I am still in the process of bouncing around, doing things here and there.”
Joeckel will return to his original NFL city this weekend when the Seahawks play at the division-leading Jaguars in a matchup of the league’s elite defenses.
He is expected to start at left guard – the position he manned in his final season in Jacksonville after three up-and-down seasons at left tackle.
“I am quite sure it would be a great feeling for him to get a pancake (block), but for the most part, I am sure he would just be happy with a win,” Seattle running back Mike Davis said.
It was before the 2016 season when the Jaguars announced they would not be picking up Joeckel’s fifth-year option, signaling the end of his tenure as the organization’s highest-ever draft pick with offensive tackle Tony Boselli (No. 2 overall in 1995) and linebacker Kevin Hardy (No. 2 in 1996).
“It is what it is — it is in the past,” said Joeckel, whose 2016 season ended in October after being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. “I don’t look back at it too much.”
For four seasons, Joeckel watched first-hand as former coach Gus Bradley, who was Seattle’s former defensive coordinator as well, remade Jacksonville’s defense from one of the worst in the league to arguably the NFL’s best this season.
The same season Joeckel was drafted – 2013 – Jacksonville also signed undrafted free agent Abry Jones, who now is one the Jaguars’ key cogs along the defensive line.
And in Joeckel’s final season, the Jaguars added budding star Jalen Ramsey at cornerback, former Bellevue High School standout Myles Jack at linebacker and Yannick Ngokuae at defensive end in the first three rounds of the draft.
“They are a very talented group,” Joeckel said. “And they will keep improving.”
Joeckel is still trying to get back to full playing speed after being out for five weeks following arthroscopic surgery on the same left knee he injured last season.
He returned to the starting lineup two weeks ago against the 49ers, then had arguably his best game last week in a 24-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
“The overall athleticism, the smarts, size — he’s got everything that you are looking for,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s done well for us.”
Now, Joeckel gets the opportunity to match up with a few of his former teammates come Sunday.
“It is a big deal (facing your old team),” Carroll said. “I’ve felt that. I know what it does to you, and how it works you up and all of that. You have to manage it well, and make sure it doesn’t get you out of the game that you are capable of playing.”