Some guys burst on to the scene with hype and sudden fame, and some guys do a patient grind, emerging without anyone really noticing. Brian Jackson, 5-10, 205-lb. senior safety, is one of those grind guys.
Captain Crunch: Brian Jackson stays crispy even in milk, shown here undressing an Arizona receiver over the middle with a clean, legal hit, a textbook tackle (Mark Yien, Albany Democrat/Herald photo).
Secondary coach John Neal told ai.com reporter Doug Grabarczyk, “About this time last year and right before we went into spring ball, Brian just took over, and he’s one of these kids that just going to be undeniable because he’s so competitive and he’s so tough. When you find a kid like that they eventually start to play for you.”
Jackson emerged as a spokesman and a leader for the Ducks. He had 69 tackles last season, starting in every game, including 10 tackles and an interception in the Civil War, 8 tackles against Stanford, California and USC, 6 tackles and a sack against Arizona State, 9 tackles and three pass breakups against Fresno State.
That's a lot of productivity. But ask most fans to name the Oregon starters in the secondary without Google or goducks, and Brian Jackson would be the name they might forget. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell are the flashy cornerbacks, Thorpe Watch List guys, preseason All-League picks and the like. Avery Patterson had the two pick sixes. Erick Dargan had 8 tackles and two interceptions in the Fiesta Bowl.
Jackson just quietly does his work. He's the janitor and night watchman in the secondary, a crunching tackler who has built his game through film study, hard work, and dedication in the weight room. He's smart. He has completed one degree and is working on his second. A serious student, in and out of football, he stays connected to family in his hometown of Hoover, Alabama through telephone and text with his younger brother via Xbox headset.
The senior safety was relatively unheralded coming out of high school. Auburn and Alabama passed on him. Rivals rated him the 85th best safety in the nation, despite a whopping 161 tackles in his senior year at Hoover High School, on a team that went 13-2 and made it all the way to the 6A State Championship game. Brian added three interceptions and was named first team all-state. This in a state where high school football comes directly after Jesus, the Crimson Tide and the Tigers, in the religious pantheon.
At Oregon, he redshirted and labored on special teams in his first three years. He told Grabarczyk, “I just remember there were a lot of times that I would wake up and find out that I wasn’t playing on that Saturday, and then the next thing you know that year has gone by so fast then you’re getting ready to play that next Saturday and then that year goes by and the next thing you know you’re practicing to get ready to play the whole game on Saturday. So it just went by so fast that I can’t get over it, really.”
By his junior year he'd earned a starting spot, starting every game. He took over as the leader and enforcer in the secondary when John Boyett was lost for the year after game one. Jackson recovered fumbles against Washington and Washington State. He cleaned up the messes, broke up seven passes, and became the third leading tackler on the team.
Jackson emerged as a captain and spokesman on the team last winter when Chip Kelly left for the NFL. He, Hroniss Grasu and Marcus Mariota met with the media, Jackson telling reporter Aaron Fentress of the Oregonian, "He believed that he was going to leave us in good condition. Basically coach Kelly did a great job with how he helped us prosper, how we grew. The way that we are now as a team, he knows that it's pretty much a player-run organization. And he said that it's what really keeps this program going. And I fully believe him on that. And...myself and a couple of other teammates, I'm sure they all agree that we can keep this thing rolling even without him."
That same morning Jackson, Grasu and Mariota led the team through a workout, 7-on-7 and stretching. Then he spent an hour in the weight room. Business as usual.
He's grown so much as a player that he has a realistic opportunity to catch on in professional ball after his Duck career is over. He'll also have the two college degrees to fall back on when he's done with football. Nfldraftscout.com ranks Brian 9th out of 128 senior safeties. #12 more than doubled his production as a junior, and with the knowledge and experience he's gained and the way he applies himself, he may jump it up again as a senior. Mature, steady, veteran presence only begins to describe him. It'd be a mistake to underestimate him as an athlete: he's powerfully built through the shoulders, with a top time of 4.57 in the 40.
“Stepping into my new role and trying to make a name for myself, I really like the way things have turned out,” Jackson told Grabarcyzk. “A lot of people here have been great friends to me, and just the whole process of me trying to mature and get older, and now that I’ve been here for a while and it being my senior year I find myself as a leader on this team, making sure that everybody is getting into the right situations and picking up the other DBs and getting them ready for when I’m gone.”
He's built an incredible legacy, part of a class that won 46 games and two BCS bowls with a season to play, maybe even play for the top prize in college football.
I remember a few years back, Jackson was a Redshirt Freshman against New Mexico and he was named as one of the special teams players of the week by the coaches even after Cliff Harris had that monster game returning punts. Jackson has long since been on my radar as someone who plays hard with tenacity and grit. Funny story, when I had NCAA 11 for the XBox 360 (the one with Tebow on the cover) I put Jackson at Punt return after I heard he was special teams POTW because he was like 92 speed and I figured hey maybe he'll do some damage... Wrong.. Haha But I did end up doing work with him at safety in the virtual realm..
Watching ESPNU with their Pac 12 Review. Lots of good teams and a very competitive conference. I am a homer but Oregon can win the Pac 12. Everybody is talking Stanford defense but they lost a lot on offense. Mark Helfrich is not going to let Stanford stop us this year, too many weapons. Now I am watching Marcus Mariota leading Brock Huard through the tour of the Death Star. Too funny!
@Mahunashizzle Mahuna, if Cliff Harris had Brian Jackson's character, maturity and work ethic he would have won a Jim Thorpe Award and maybe a Heisman Trophy at Oregon. Jackson's going to have an excellent senior year.
@SonomaDuck SD, I really think Stanford may be a little overvalued this year. They were 12-2 last season and lost 3/4 of their offense. And I think the Ducks will have a better game plan for them this time.
@Duckbill DB calls the Heisman race with 15 weeks to play, and you may have nailed it. Heisman Pundit has him 2nd in his preseason forecast:
@Dale Newton @SonomaDuck Dale and SD I agree that Stanford is in no way stronger than they were a year before. Kevin Hogan managed a win in that game behind Stanford's rushing attack (Even though Ifo was forcing fumbles like a mad man) A questionable call in the endzone on a td catch (which I still am not sure about) and a kicking mistake (how many of those can a team endure, I feel like Boise State or something) and we're smacking ND for the title.
Stanford is going to have a great Defense again, but they always have. Their offense could be improved but only marginally because Kevin Hogan is NOT Andrew Luck. He might get exposed by a really good Oregon Secondary.
He'll have to put up numbers bigger than Manzeil did last season because he's not in the SEC. Oregon will have to win out. He'll have to pick Stanford (the only Pac-12 defense the rest of the world respects) to pieces.
And finally, knowing Heisman voters, he'll have to drag a dozen beached orcas back into the ocean after blowing out a previously undefeated USC in the Pac-12 championship game (causing Lane Kiffen's head to explode and then spontaneously regrow) to capture the human interest element. Since USC plays an extra game this season, that game would be in Los Angeles, and it probably wouldn't hurt if Brent Musburger spotted Mariota picking up trash along the I-110 freeway prior to kickoff.
@Duckbill @Mahunashizzle @Dale Newton @SonomaDuck Hogan's a very solid quarterback with a great offensive line, but he doesn't have any proven playmakers at tailback, receiver or tight end. Be interesting to see how the Stanford season turns out.
He did do a masterful job against the Ducks last season, particularly in that fourth quarter drive to win the game.
Maybe Mariota could also rescue a few babies and help a little old lady across the street :). USC does have one problem: they haven't yet named a starting quarterback. Watch out for the Arizona schools in year two.