Mr. Cincinnati earned the sport custom-made for him. Cincinnati born and raised, star at the University of Cincinnati, pride of LaSalle High School, JK Schaffer landed on the Bengals practice squad Tuesday to take the spot of Emmanuel Lamur.
Schaffer went undrafted out of UC and landed on the Jacksonville practice squad. He narrowly missed out on making the Jaguars team out of training camp, earned a short stint in Tampa Bay before working out with the Bengals more than a month ago. The right combination of luck left Cincinnati in need of a linebacker for its practice squad and Schaffer was ready and waiting.
He showed up Tuesday with a locker with a No. 49 jersey hanging and iPad playbook in hand. I had a chance to catch up with one of the scribe and crowd favorites from UC history. Nobody loves Cincinnati more as displayed by the ear-to-ear grin he sported as he made his way through the locker room for the first time.
"Growing up there is nobody else I cheered for besides the Bengals," he said. "For me to be here is a dream come true."
Here are some bits and pieces of the conversation as he settled in to his new job on Day 1.
What can you bring to this team?
JK: Got to first of all take my time learn the system, get to know this team, what the coaches want and find my role on this team. Excel at that. So, I am going to take it one step at a time, but I would do anything to help this football team. I think I could fill a pretty good role on special teams and then eventually be able to help out on defense. Whatever my role is I'll do it. I am just excited to be here.
What have you taken from the other camps you've been in you bring here?
JK: Everywhere I have been I've learned from a lot of good players. In Jacksonville, I learned from Paul Posluszny, he was a great role model for me and taught me how to come into this league and be an NFL player. I have learned things everywhere I have been and I am going to continue to do that, learn from Rey (Maualuga) and these guys that have been here for a long time. Just continue that journey.
What have the last two months been like?
JK: Roller coaster is a good way to explain it. There have been some really fun times and some really hard times, too, just trying to find my place.
Did you think you had it made in Jacksonville?
JK: I knew that there is no guarantee ever in this business. So, I didn't think I had it made. I thought I had a very good opportunity. I thought things were looking really good for me, but I knew that I had to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. That's what I did. Once I got cut, I said, OK, put my head down and move on to the next thing and the next opportunity.
You are a UC guy, cut by Jacksonville, Bengals practice squad - Armon Binns serve as model?
JK: Oh yeah, I've been thinking about that the whole time. Coach Lewis even said that to me around the draft. When I was making my choice and everything, he was using Armon as an example. I think it is meant to be.
He's far from the only undrafted guy making an impact, they are everywhere even at linebacker here where Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur are now undrafted rookies playing?
JK: You look at guys like Harrison from Pittsburgh, he was cut from a team six times or something before he got to start playing. So, you hear stories like that all the time. I want to be one of those stories.
Did you have your hopes up and feel good about your workout here?
JK: I'd lie if I said my hopes weren't up. Had a good workout, I just kind of tried to trust in the thought that everything happens for a reason and things will work out the way they should.
What Bengals did you like growing up?
JK: I really liked Justin Smith. I really like watching him play, I still like watching him play. He's probably one of my favorite Bengals defenders of all time. I liked his overall effort and motor, he wasn't the most athletic guy in the world but you watch him he was the guy going through smacking the backs as hard as he can and hustling everywhere he goes. Those are the kind of things I like about him.
Did you think you might choose the Bengals after the draft instead of Jacksonville?
JK: I knew going into the draft it would be either here or Jacksonville. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my life. It was neck and neck. It came down to a few tiny little details that I thought I might have a better opportunity. That was the only thing. It was a tough decision. I am not going to say that I particularly know if it was the right decision or not, but it was tough.
What would people say to you as you were helping coach at LaSalle the last few months?
JK: The same question all the time, 'Hey what is going on now? Oh, we want the Bengals to pick you up.' I say, yeah, I know, me too. You are not the only one.
I would like to hear from you, send me any questions, comments or criticisms and I'll be sure to fire back an answer along with all the reasons JK was one of my favorite Bearcats to cover. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can find me on Twitter at @pauldehnerjr.