The Spack-sonville—er, Jacksonville—Jaguars will feature two familiar faces on their first offensive snap of the NFL season this Sunday.
While James O’Shaughnessy and James Robinson never shared the football field together at Hancock Stadium, the two former Redbirds—both coached by Brock Spack—will play for the first time with one another on the game’s biggest stage.
O’Shaughnessy, a tight end who starred at Illinois State from 2010-2014, and Robinson, a record-setting running back for the Redbirds from 2016-2019, both cracked the top of the depth chart at their respective positions with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. When the Jaguars take the field on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, two of the team’s 11 offensive starters will be Redbirds, a remarkable feat for a program that has made five FCS playoff appearances since 2012.
“We take a lot of pride in that,” said Spack. “It’s a reflection of the program and how we develop players here and shows that players are able to chase their dreams to the NFL. It just proves that we can do that here at ISU.”
O’Shaughnessy, a 2014 political science graduate, was a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and has been with Jacksonville since 2017. He missed much of last year with a torn ACL but battled back to earn his starting spot. He has 60 career receptions in the NFL for 602 yards and three touchdowns. At Illinois State, he was an All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Second-Team selection as a senior. He scored a touchdown in the 2014 national championship game against North Dakota State.
Robinson finished his illustrious four-year career at Illinois State ranked No. 2 all-time in rushing yards (4,444), rushing touchdowns (44), all-purpose yards (5,218), and total touchdowns scored (46). Despite a strong performance in the East-West Shrine Bowl game last January, where he burst for a 63-yard touchdown run, he went undrafted and signed as a free agent with Jacksonville last April.
After a strong training camp, he was named the Jaguars’ starter at running back following the departure of incumbent Leonard Fournette to Tampa Bay.
The former Redbirds both overcame obstacles to get to this point—O’Shaughnessy with the injury and Robinson having to prove himself after going undrafted. Now, one will block for the other on the same professional field.
“It tells you who these two young men are: great character and toughness,” Spack said. “We’re just very proud.”