Things didn’t end well for Jeremy Mincey in Jacksonville, but the defensive end can hardly complain. He went to the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in February, and then signed with his favorite childhood team, the Dallas Cowboys, in the off-season.
“It’s strange how it all worked out,” Mincey said. “Just last year, I was with the Jags, and we were getting ready to play the 49ers [in London], and I was going through kind of a tough time, because I wasn’t allowed to be myself. I’m like, dude, I’m a leader. This is who I am. All the teammates, everybody gravitated toward me. It was just hard for me not to be able to let it all out, because you’ve got a coach who don’t know you, really, genuinely.
“ You’ve got to have players that are willing to die for the cause, and I want to win. I play to win, and that’s my mentality.”
It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
Jacksonville has gone 1-11 since cutting Mincey late last season, while Mincey’s teams have a 10-4 record, including the playoffs, since then.
In the Cowboys’ locker room, Mincey has taken on the leadership role he has earned almost everywhere he has been. He was a team captain in high school, in junior college and at Florida.
Being a leader is in Mincey’s DNA.
“Mincey is more of a vocal guy,” defensive tackle Henry Melton said. “He’s a great leader. He’s always getting us riled up and motivated. You can’t help but feed off of him.”
Mincey plays the Jaguars on Sunday for the first time since they dumped him. He had signed a four-year, $20 million deal before the 2012 season, but he recorded only three sacks that year and lost his starting job last year after another coaching change.
The Jaguars left him home for one road trip last season for missing meetings, and they deactivated him the next week. After he was late to a Friday morning meeting Dec. 13, Jacksonville released him.
Mincey said he respects Jaguars coach Gus Bradley and holds no grudge, but he does feel his reputation was unfairly sullied.
“I don’t think they looked at my positives,” he said. “I was going through a lot. It was tough, man. There are a lot of things I can’t talk about, but there were a lot of things that happened to me that I don’t speak on, and I swallowed that pill, because I’m a man.
“I get knocked down, and I just get up and come back stronger, work harder. You just focus on what I’ve got to do. Right now, I’m trying to be the best Cowboy I can be, and we’re doing a good job.”
Looking to fill a leadership void as well as a defensive end spot after cutting DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys signed Mincey to a two-year, $4.5 million contract with $1.7 million guaranteed. He has been a model player in Dallas.
“I think you always try to do your due diligence on players and understand what’s been in their past both good and bad and maybe what the reasons might have been for some of those things and try to figure out if that player fits into what you want on your football team,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “I think the biggest thing with Mince is he comes to work. He comes to work every day. He’s attentive in meetings. He practices hard and he plays hard.
“Again, from people who we think are credible sources who’ve been around him throughout his career, that’s what they describe to us. We went ahead and signed him, and we’re happy we did.”
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has nicknamed him “Oil Can” since Mincey is the oldest player on the defense. He turns 31 next month.
While Mincey has only one sack, he is tied with Tyrone Crawford for the most quarterback pressures (19).
All’s well that end’s well.
“Guys look up to me and they respect me,” Mincey said. “They watch what I’ve been through in this league. I’ve been cut four or five times, get a starting job, break my hand, over and over, just a lot of different things. They watched me defeat all the odds and just keep fighting.
“Here I am in year nine of my career, and still here and starting for the Dallas Cowboys. I think that’s a pretty special thing.”