When the Chicago Bears traded up in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft to grab Alabama safety Eddie Jackson, it was their first, and only, defensive played they picked. In what most believed to be a very deep draft full of defensive talent, the Bears went mostly offense.
If you stop and think about it that actually makes sense. In the two years of the Ryan Pace / John Fox regime, the defense has been a bit better than the offense. True, the defense has lacked playmakers, with a ridiculously low amount of turnovers the last two years, but the Bears did draft six defensive players in 2016. Perhaps the Bears view some of these guys as breakout candidates this season.
Then again, maybe GM Ryan Pace, just played the hand he was dealt, and drafted according to how the board fell to him. Odds are we’ll never know for sure, but back to Jackson. This guy has the potential to be a day one starter at free safety. Injuries are all that has stopped him at Alabama, buty he should be healthy real soon.
Here’s everything Jackson had to say on his post-draft conference call.
He was asked about his draft day set-up and how he figured out the Bears were taking him.
“I’m just watching it back home in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with close friends and family. The GM called me and I was actually laying down sleeping when he called. I jumped up and he told me they were going to pick me right now. I was like “Aw, man,” and was just thankful for the opportunity and everything.”
Jackson was asked if he expected to go in the fourth round, and if he expected the phone to wake him up.
“Yeah, I just thought my phone was going to wake me up whenever the time had come. It’s a stressful process, you know you’re frustrated and you’re very sad and just everything like that. I was just like when they call my phone I’ll answer whoever calls and I’m just glad it was the Chicago Bears.”
Besides the injury bug, he had some academic problems he had to over come in high school. He was asked about not playing his sophomore and junior year in high school and coming back from the leg injury at Alabama.
“No, sir I didn’t. It was just for academic problems. As for the injury, it was frustrating but I had to work hard. We’ve got a great training staff over there at Alabama and they pushed me to the limits and everything. I just thought about who I wanted to be, so I just knew what I had to do and just worked hard to try to get recovered as fast as possible. Being a little kid you dream about doing things at the combine and participating in the combine and now I got there, and I wasn’t able to do it so it was just a frustrating process but it has all worked out for the best.”
Here’s what he said about getting attention from recruiters without playing his junior season of high school.
“Just going out there and making plays. Every game, make plays. I had a great coach, Coach Wayne Blair and those guys... Coach Johnson, they were over there with me. Coach Mackenzie my receiving coach... and they just put me in the position to make a lot of plays and I was able to get recruited fast and jump on a lot of people’s radars fast.”
And how is that recovery going?
“I’m fine right now. I’m healthy, and I’ll be ready to go by training camp and everything like that. From last year I mean, it was frustrating that I went out with an injury but it’s something that I can’t control. I’m just ready to go in there and work with the training staff for the Bears, and I know I’m going to be ready for training camp 100%, no limitations.”
He was asked about his emotions on how his season ended with the broken leg.
“It was just frustrating, being on top for a while and you go out with a leg injury. Especially after coming back from the season I had my junior year, coming back and helping my team, also to get a degree. It’s just things like that, where you’re doing good and everything has been taken away from you. You know, you lose everything and at that moment I was at a low point in my life but I had family and friends and my teammates and coaches that really kept me up and kept me motivated. Also, the fans. The fans always kept me motivated through everything, and big ups go to my girlfriend. She stood by me through thick and thin along with my family and friends. It was just frustrating. Some things you’ve got to fight through and my dad always taught me not to feel sorry for yourself and to overcome adversity which I’ve been going through my whole life. So, I just felt like nothing was going to hold me down and I knew what I had to do. I knew where I came from and I knew I didn’t want to go back to. So that just kept me going.”
On if he worked out after his pro day
“Yes, sir. I worked out for teams at ‘Bama. A couple of teams came out and did private workouts with me.”
Here’s what he said about his experience as a returner and if he expects to do that with the Bears.
“I like playing punt return. It was one of the first few things I did. I was happy that my coaches gave me a chance to do it since I’ve been there. They didn’t think I knew how to play it at first but they gave me a chance, so it worked out for the best. I have gotten some indications from the Bears. They told me they liked me as a returner. That’s one of the things they want to try me at, or see how well I do. All I’ve got to say is I’m just ready to come in and compete and work. You know, take advantage of every opportunity that’s given to me right now.”
What was his favorite highlight?
“I’d say it was the Tennessee punt return, and that Texas A&M Pick-6. I think that’s my favorite one because of the moves I made and how the blocking and everything was set up by my teammates to get me open and things like that.”
On his knack of finding the football.
“Really just following the quarterback, we do a great job on defense. Being a secondary you have key things you have to look at, just reading the quarterback, and being able to break on the ball and having good ball skills. When I get the ball, I feel like I turn into a receiver. It’s my mindset. I don’t think about going out of bounds, or think about going down, I think about touchdowns. I think that’s one thing that helps me. It helps me and a couple of guys on the team if we think about touchdowns as the secondary we don’t want go down, we want to score.”
Former Bears’ defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker, was Alabama’s defensive backs coach in 2015.
“That was a great experience, that’s was one of the times when I first made the switch to move to safety, he was one of the guys that really helped me understand the fundamentals of playing safety and help me understand. Me and Coach Tucker are so cool, we have a great relationship, I appreciate everything he has done for me. He just always tells me things that keep me motivated, you’re one of the best safeties I’ve ever coached, things like that. It kept me motivated he helped me a lot with understanding the safety position, and I really think him for that.”
Did Alabama making him a more coachable human being?
“Just coming there Coach Wayne did a great job of getting me out of the mind frame of ‘you can’t tell me anything’ but when I got there, now you got to learn how to take tough coaching. Coach Saban and the older guys that were around, and CJ Mosley and those guys were just like listen to how you handling this and the way he’s saying it. Just take it into consideration and really just understanding everything just helped you really move forward , it’s not that someone’s being hard on you just take the coaching. I would say that’s one of the things that helped me a lot.”
Why was the Alabama defense so dominant”
“Just the drive. Everybody had the same goals, same mind set everybody wanted to win, no one is going to score on us, no one is going to outdo us , no one was going to beat us. I just felt like a lot of guys, everybody on that defense had a point to prove. A lot of guys came in a lot of us had to wait, I played my freshman year but then I had to play a waiting game after that. It was just the mindset we have at Alabama. We compete with each other every day we just you know it’s always a competition between us, who can get the most picks, who got the most interception returns yards between John, Dalvin, Ryan and Tim who gets the most sacks, who get the sack on this play between Ruben, John and Deion . Just things like that holding each other accountable that was one of the biggest things and not feeling entitled to anything, and just work for everything we want.”
Since he has experience all over Alabama’s defensive backfield, he was asked if the Bears have talked to him about playing Free Safety.
“Really I just see myself wherever I am needed corner, safety it really doesn’t matter but I played both at Alabama I played strong safety, and free safety I just feel like wherever I’m needed I can do it all. I’ll have good coaching they can teach me what I need to be taught and they talked to me about playing safety and special teams. I’m just looking forward to come out there and earn a spot and hopefully take us to a Super Bowl. It’s possible.”
Here’s what he said about going up against (former Alabama WR) Amari Cooper at practice.
“Cooper’s just a guy who is going to work every day. He’s going to give you the best at everything, he’s going to go hard every day no matter if you line up in front of him and you’re having a bad day he doesn’t care, he stills going to give his best, and a guy like that , going up a guy like that you are entitled to get better. You have no other choice but to get better. He’s going to push you and big ups to Coop. Like I said, he helped me get better. I’d be lined up in front of him and I’d turn to coach David and Coach David said I’m not going to take him off you, he’d look at me like ‘by the time I’m done with you, you’re going to be live’. Just his foot footwork., his intelligence of the game and just going up against him you’ll entirely get better he really helped me a lot, just by sticking him and seeing how much he worked how much it means to him, how dedicated he is to football off the field, and things like that. The sacrifices he made to get better every day just watching a guy like that you’re going to succeed and I just appreciate that.”
On if he plans to go back to sleep
“No. I’m not going back to sleep right now. Just going to celebrate with family right now have a little cookout, eat food with my family and close friends. That’s about it just take advantage of the opportunity man it still feels like a dream, this something you dream about since you were a little kid, it’s just a wonderful feeling, man. A wonderful feeling.”