Undrafted Rookie J.C. Jackson Looking to Show Teams What They Missedby Sam Gordon January 3, 2019 0 comments
From undrafted to one of the vital components of the New England Patriots’ secondary, J.C. Jackson has silenced his doubters.
Jackson finished at Immokalee High School as a four-star recruit and committed to Florida to play football. Everything seemed to be going to plan until he suffered a shoulder injury at the beginning of his freshman season which forced him into a redshirt year.
He healed in time to begin practicing for his sophomore season before he ran into trouble with the law. Though acquitted of the charges, Jackson didn’t return to Florida and decided to attend Riverside City College in California.
Jackson was being courted by colleges across the country while attending Riverside before ultimately choosing to follow D.J. Durkin, his original Florida recruiter, to Maryland as his third and final college home.
The Terrapins tasked Jackson with covering the best receivers in the Big Ten, including former second-team All-Big Ten Penn State receiver DaeSean Hamilton, UCF alum Tre’Quan Smith, and Ohio State’s K.J. Hill.
The Florida native proved solid and reliable, starting in all 12 games his first season at Maryland, recording 29 solo tackles and one interception as a sophomore. He continued his roll into his junior season, racking up 33 solo tackles along with three interceptions.
Although he earned an invite to the NFL combine and was considered by draft evaluators to be a physical cornerback with a chance to become an NFL starter, 256 players were taken, and 27 cornerbacks were drafted among them. None of them were named J.C. Jackson.
Jackson didn’t let that cut his confidence down as he stuck to his path.
“It was all God’s plan,” Jackson said. “I just did what I had to do to stay focused and I let God help me with the rest.”
The former Terp got the call from the Patriots and steadily worked his way up the depth chart all the way through OTA‘s, mandatory minicamp, training camp and all four preseason matchups, recording two interceptions as well as two pass breakups in the fourth game.
With the odds against him at every turn, Jackson made the 53-man roster capping off an improbable journey to the NFL. The first thing he did? He picked up the phone.
“When I first found out I made the roster, I called my parents and I was excited,” Jackson said. “Every single day I just was hungry and kept grindin’.”
In one of the quietest Pro Bowl-caliber seasons, Jackson collectively shut down the game’s top receivers including holding Pittsburgh Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster to four catches on 10 targets.
The numbers don’t lie. Jackson is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL when it comes to statistics. In the entire season, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, Jackson was targeted 44 times allowing only 20 catches for 230 yards and zero touchdowns for a combined 33.3 opposing passer rating. But how could teams miss on a player so talented? One must call into question how the draft process doesn’t necessarily determine who is going to be a great player.
“They just counted me out man,” Jackson said about the 31 other teams that passed on him. “I’m proving everybody wrong, showing them that I’m a ballplayer, they just missed out but let’s go Pats.”
Jackson is quietly becoming a household name, and he answered questions on what he does in his spare time, which includes gaming on Playstation 4.
“Most of the time I just chill, I’ll be on the PS4 playing Madden,” Jackson said. “I go out, but I don’t really do much, I get a massage, take care of my body.”
Jackson doesn’t have a team of choice for Madden and he is comfortable with every squad against anyone.
“I play with anybody man,” Jackson said. “It depends on who I’m playing.”
Jackson has touched some of the Patriots biggest fans including Keith “Silver Bullet” Birchall, who had nothing but great things to say after meeting him even citing a potential to be even better overall than the Super Bowl XLIX hero.
“He is a definite new fan favorite,” Birchall said. “I have to say he has qualities beyond that of [Malcolm] Butler. He continues to grow & come into his own over the past few weeks.”
Not only have fans taken to the rookie sensation, but end zone militiamen Dave Cunningham and Paul Brunelle praising not only his play on the field but his presence off the field as well. Cunningham compared him with two of the Patriots’ greatest and agrees with Birchall that Jackson’s upside is higher than that of Butler.
“As a back, he is comparable to Troy Brown and Lawyer Milloy,” Cunningham said of Jackson. “He carries himself well and appears to be a genuine individual. He has a well-adjusted attitude and has adjusted to the Patriot way. I believe that J.C. Jackson can do as well, if not better than Butler.”
Brunelle focused more on Jackson talent-wise, saying that as the season has gone on, things have gotten easier for him.
“He has now started to gel and have continuity with the rest of the squad,” Brunelle said. “Probably because he feels more comfortable now and his skills are starting to show. I feel confident at this time that he will be able to do well out on the field for the team.”
The rookie cornerback will take the field against the best the AFC has to offer in two week’s time, looking to show once again what the rest of the league missed out on.
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