NFL training camp drawing closer for Spartanburg’s Tavien FeasterHelen
Tavien Feaster described the back end of the final round of April’s NFL draft as a crazy time spent on the phone with various teams, urging them to select him, only to watch pick after pick go by without hearing his name called.
The former Spartanburg, Clemson and University of South Carolina running back still ended up in a good situation, agreeing to a free-agent deal with Jacksonville in the immediate aftermath.
“I knew the situation going in before the draft and I’m a realist,” said Feaster, who surprisingly didn’t receive a combine invite before USC’s Pro Day workout for scouts (an important event for Feaster) was canceled by the pandemic. “But it was an amazing blessing having teams reaching out trying to sign me and I thought Jacksonville was the best fit for me and I’m ready for the opportunity.”
Feaster is hosting a youth football drive-up giveaway starting at 10 a.m. Saturday at Barnet Park. The first 500 cars will receive a grab-and-go lunch in addition to a football kit that includes a signed card, T-shirt and water bottle. Details on COVID-19 precautions are still being worked out to see if fans will be allowed to greet and take pictures with Feaster.
He still expects to report for training camp as scheduled the end of this month although with coronavirus concerns still prevalent he’s been keeping a close eye on all available information.
“I see a lot of things changing from day to day and you’ve got to be ready for any adjustments and come in ready,” Feaster said. “All I can do is prepare for the moment and when it does come go out there and seize that moment.”
He’s joining a Jaguars franchise in full rebuilding mode after finishing 6-10 and last place in the AFC South. Jacksonville was 17th in the league at 107 rushing yards per game and scored a league-worst three rushing touchdowns. Leonard Fournette was seventh with 1,152 rushing yards.
Other than Fournette, who will be in his fourth year, and veteran Chris Thompson (preparing for his seventh season), Jacksonville’s four other running backs aside from Feaster are two rookies and two second-year players.
“From the competition aspect the team is rebuilding with not a lot of veterans in the room,” Feaster said. “Of course they’ve got a lead horse, but there’s more than one spot and I have to prepare and go down there and just do my job to the best of my ability. Go in there with a lot of self-confidence and be ready to compete for a job.”
Feaster has been training hard daily to be in the best shape of his life when he finally gets to step on a field again with his new teammates once the NFL gives the okay to report.
“It’s been a really long time but I’m so excited,” Feaster said. “The opportunity is right around the corner and it’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little boy so I’m ready for it.”
He participated in an online only rookie mini-camp in early May and the Jaguars have conducted regular team and position meetings over the past few months until just recently when players were given some final time off before the expected start of training camp.
“This has been a blessing just to get to experience some of these things and I get up every morning knowing the opportunity is there in front of me and I’ve just got to wake up and go get it,” Feaster said.
Should Feaster make the roster he’d become the fourth from the area to currently be playing in the NFL joining former Dorman receivers Adam Humphries (Titans) and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (Eagles) in addition to former Chapman receiver Deebo Samuel (49ers). Former Dorman receiver Charone Peake was released in April by the Jaguars and former Dorman offensive lineman Brandon Thomas played for Jacksonville last year before being released.
Witnessing the success Humphries has enjoyed over his five seasons (earning his current $36 million contract) and the breakout rookie year Samuel just produced, including an outstanding Super Bowl performance, has helped inspire increased confidence in Feaster.
“For sure it definitely has,” Feaster said. “I’m very happy for the success they’re having and that just shows hard work does pay off because if you work as hard as you can you’re going to get where you need to be. I’m very appreciative to be part of this elite club of athletes that have come out of the Spartanburg County area and I’m grateful.”
Feaster said of the event he’s hosting Saturday “it’s a surreal feeling to give back to your community having been born and raised in Spartanburg. It’s definitely something I’m very prideful and excited about starting up.”
Feaster had initially hoped to put on a youth camp, much like the one Humphries and Peake have done in years past when Feaster volunteered as a counselor. COVID-19 obviously altered that desire.
“We’re trying to make it as safe as possible,” said Kenneth Joshen Jr. of Echelon Sports which is putting on the event with City of Spartanburg Parks and Recreation. “We have Barnet Park strategically planned out where they have to drive in a loop to get their hot meal and bag of goodies and we’ll have another loop where Feaster will be and can actually be seen.
“We know everybody wants to take a picture or wish him good luck, but we have to make sure safety is first and we’ll see how we’re going to do it over these final few days.”