What was shaping up as a difficult month for international sports magnate Shahid Khan took a turn for the good on Thursday, when his Jacksonville Jaguars landed the (potential) franchise quarterback they coveted by taking Blake Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft.
Bortles was one of a few best-case-scenario options for the Jaguars, who not only need to improve on the field after posting an NFL-worst 6-26 record in the two seasons Khan has owned the team, but also need to bring disillusioned Jacksonville fans back to the stadium.
Bortles, who grew up in Oviedo, Fla., and played college ball at Central Florida, was one of two locally-grown quarterbacks with first-round talent in this year’s draft class that the Jags were reportedly eyeing. The other, Louisville’s Teddy Bridewater, grew up in Miami. And then there was Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner and polarizing tabloid magnet who would have drawn national attention to the Jaguars had they chose him. After the Houston Texans and St. Louis Rams used the No. 1 and No. 2 picks, respectively, to address their needs on the line of scrimmage, Jacksonville had its pick of any quarterback of skill-position player in the draft.
The month of May hadn’t started out so well for Khan, 61, a Pakistani Muslim billionaire who also owns Fulham F.C. of the English Premier League. Fulham recently clinched its spot among the bottom three teams in the league this season, earning the dubious distinction of being relegated to a lower division with its 9-24-4 record and minus-45 goal differential.
Then, in a bizarre story, 85-year-old former Fulham owner Mohamed Al-Fayed — an Egyptian Muslim and a billionaire in his own right — blamed the team’s misfortunes on Khan getting rid of a seven-foot Michael Jackson statue that Al-Fayed had erected outside of the team’s home stadium in 2011.
“This statue was a charm and we removed the luck from the club and now we have to pay the price,” Al-Fayed was quoted. “When (Khan) asked me to move it I said, ‘you must be crazy.’ This is such a fantastic statue which the fans are crying out for. But now he has paid the price because the club has been relegated. He called me because he told me he wanted Michael to return. I told him, ‘No way.'”
Manziel ended up getting drafted No. 22 by the Cleveland Browns, while Bridgewater was the final pick of the first round, going No. 32 to the Minnesota Vikings. Adham Talaat, a defensive end from Gallaudet University who is deaf and a practicing Muslim, was not chosen in the first round. Talaat is expected to be a mid- to late-round pick.