Jackson’s move about to pay off

dshirley@macon.comApril 15, 2010 

A week from tonight, the NFL draft takes on a new look as it heads into prime time.

Instead of the longtime Saturday-Sunday format, the draft this year will start a week from tonight and covers a three-day format. And one of Macon’s own will be right in the middle of the fun.

Former Westside standout Kareem Jackson cut his Alabama career short to enter the draft this year, and that move will pay off next week. Jackson’s decision to leave the Crimson Tide was criticized by some who thought he wasn’t ready for the NFL.

He was just a product of Nick Saban’s defensive system with the Tide, some critics said. He’s not fast enough to play against NFL receivers, others said. He won’t be able to handle man-to-man responsibilities in the pro game, even others said.

Pretty soon, Jackson will be able to prove them all wrong.

Jackson quieted some of the doubters with a strong showing at the NFL Combine, including a faster-than-expected 40-yard time. But to be honest, those doubters should have been dismissed long ago, especially after Jackson’s solid career and strong junior season with the Tide.

Jackson, who played one year at Fork Union Military College before signing with Alabama after Saban was hired, started all but one game at cornerback during his time with the Tide. In January, he said he received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee and has been moving up on mock drafts ever since.

He had five interceptions and 159 tackles in his Alabama career, which ended with the Crimson Tide’s 37-21 win over Texas in the BCS national championship game. That performance should mean a lot more than Jackson’s size or speed as he embarks on his pro career, and it looks like NFL personnel people are taking notice.

Also, the argument that he was just a product of Saban’s system actually helps Jackson’s cause. Saban is a brilliant defensive mind and certainly understands what it takes to get a player ready for the NFL, after serving as an assistant in the league for many years and working as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins before taking over the Alabama program. Saban, in fact, was the perfect college head coach for Jackson, and the former Westside standout likely will have an advantage over some other cornerbacks after playing in Saban’s system for three years.

It all adds up to Jackson’s decision to leave college early culminating in a high draft pick next week and a solid pro career to come.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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