Kareem Jackson hasn’t really had a chance to stand still during the past week.
The Houston Texans selected the Macon native with the 20th pick in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday. He was in Houston during the weekend to be introduced to the team and media. Then he returned to Macon this week before he gets ready to leave for Boca Raton, Fla., for training.
“I’ve been pretty busy, yeah,” Jackson said with a smile.
The former Alabama standout received another honor Tuesday when Westside retired his No. 5 jersey and gave him a key to the school at a morning ceremony. In front of family, friends, former teachers and the Westside student body, Jackson thanked the members of the crowded gym for their support and told them that anyone there could achieve the same level of success with hard work and determination.
“I wanted to thank everyone who is pulling for me,” he said. “There are people out there that I don’t even know that want me to do well. That means a lot, and I want to say thanks. I also wanted to let all those students know that you can achieve your dreams with hard work.”
Jackson delivered some brief comments and then was handed a framed jersey that will hang in the school’s trophy case. He signed autographs and posed for pictures with his No. 25 Texans jersey for close to an hour. There were plenty of smiles, handshakes and hugs for those who patiently waited, which didn’t surprise Jackson’s former high school coach Mickey Daniell.
“This is just (Jackson),” said Daniell, who was the offensive coordinator at Westside when Jackson was a record-breaking running back. “He’s a high character guy, and he’s always been a guy people liked being around.”
Westside head football coach Sheddrick Risper, who was an assistant coach while Jackson was in school, said the ceremony came together quickly. Jackson has to return next week to Florida to work out with his trainer, and he must report for offseason training May 17 in Houston.
Jackson was surprised when Houston drafted him. He said he didn’t have any significant contact with the Texans through the draft process. But the Texans’ scouting department liked both Jackson and Florida cornerback Joe Haden, who was drafted at No. 7 by the Cleveland Browns.
“He has great ball skills, great speed, played in a big-time conference, was a three-year starter and was a productive player,” Texans general manager Rick Smith said. “All the things you look for really set him apart for us. ... I’m really excited about this young man and what he can do for us.”
Jackson said he’s excited about the challenge of competing for a starting job this season. He said the Alabama coaching staff has prepared him to play at a high level.
“I’ll be ready to go in and learn and compete,” Jackson said. “This has been a dream year, with (winning a national championship and getting drafted. I’m living my dream.”
Receiver Ronnie Carswell was the final player to wear the No. 5 jersey for the Seminoles. Coincidentally, Carswell will follow in Jackson’s footsteps when he heads to Alabama this summer.