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Janzen Jackson. (Associated Press)

Janzen Jackson. (Associated Press)

Hickey: Jackson must stay out of trouble to have NFL shot

Last Modified: Monday, April 30, 2012 8:00 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Character counts.

Hopefully Janzen Jackson has finally learned that lesson. As they say, better late than never.

If talent is the only thing in question, it seems implausible that the McNeese State defensive back falls through all seven rounds of this year’s NFL Draft without someone selecting him. Teams take fliers on guys from unheard-of places like Midwestern State on the chance they will pan out.

Jackson wasn’t an unproven commodity. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school who proved he could excel at the highest level of college football in two years at Tennessee.

Off the field, he had a knack for making one-star decisions. It finally caught up to him this August when Volunteers coach Derek Dooley kicked him off the team, paving the way for Jackson to come home and play for McNeese.

Matt Viator took the chance of having Jackson on his team mostly out of concern for a friend’s son. If there was anywhere Jackson would get things back on track, it was here, with coaches he had grown up with since he was a kid.

When Viator gave Jackson a shot at redemption, it was under the premise that education would matter. It was explained to me that Jackson would be around for two years pursuing a degree at the same time as a future in the NFL.

It seems that deal only lasted until the season finale at Lamar. There is a reason you don’t see Jackson’s name on the list of players awarded varsity letters even though he played the whole season.

Whatever Grade-A fool who had Jackson’s ear apparently gave him the idea that none of this mattered. Talent alone would be enough to land the NFL’s dollars.

Instead, Jackson’s unexpectedly early exit created more questions in the area where the only questions were being asked — character.

In terms of pure skill, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. saw Jackson as someone who could go in the second round. But skill never ended up being any team’s primary concern.

“He’s a talented kid. You combine his size, the leaping ability, the athleticism, what he was doing early on at Tennessee,” Kiper said. “But I think the off-the-field concerns, they had a disappointing combine workout, as well, so when you have the combine that wasn’t up to the level for a kid that was expected to be such a great talent, then he didn’t show that enormous talent at the combine. Then, the off-the-field concern, instead of being a second-, third-round pick you become a day three pick.”

Turns out Mel was being optimistic. Like talented but troubled Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, teams had too many unanswered questions about Jackson to risk spending serious money acquiring him.

McNeese did nothing to help Jackson answer those questions during the season. Oversensitive to any kind of press that might reflect McNeese in a negative light — MY GOD, YOU CAN’T TELL PEOPLE WE HAVEN’T WON A PLAYOFF GAME IN TEN YEARS! — the school kept him off-limits to the media.

An opportunity to explain the circumstances that led to his dismissal at Tennessee and what he was doing to move on from it might have done Jackson a world of good in the long run — as would another year in school to separate himself from the character questions that arose in Knoxville.

Ironically, Jackson’s journey to the NFL — he quietly signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Giants — is the opposite of the one he took to college, when he made a huge splash the day after signing day by unexpectedly picking the Vols instead of LSU.

Ideally for him, the trajectory of his pro career will also serve as a reverse image of college, where the only reason anyone talks about Janzen Jackson is because of the amazing plays he is making on the field.

Jackson is still young enough to learn from his previous mistakes and go on to great things in football and life.

To succeed in New York City, he will have no other choice.


Alex Hickey covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at

Posted By: vol On: 5/3/2012

Title: why?

this loser will be starting for the giants before too long. you cant keep talent like that on the practice squad

Posted By: Bryce Brown On: 5/2/2012

Title: Why did he get kicked off the team at Tennessee?

And why won't anybody say? It's as well guarded of a secret as nuclear launch codes.

Posted By: Coin On: 5/1/2012

Title: Awesome

Everyone deserves a second chance. This kid is a huge steal for the New York giants. He is a freak athlete and from every article I read, he has matured and will get even better. He has the potential to be a starting safety in the NFL! Theres no way he will ruin that chance again

Posted By: keylon On: 5/1/2012


He's a great athlete who's stil young and will learn from his mistakes and hava great career in the nfl

Posted By: Mark On: 5/1/2012

Title: Mark

@ Bill, I Guess you have never made any mistakes in your life.
Everyone deserves a second chance.

Posted By: Giants11 On: 5/1/2012

Title: Only NY or NE

have the past record to allow the chance of a major error in player selection. Other GM's would be blasted if it doesn't work out

Posted By: bill On: 5/1/2012

Title: why

why give this loser attention.......cant you write article about someone who stays out of trouble.............

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