INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Along with all of the running, jumping and lifting, NFL combine week comes with a ton of interviews.
How do you conduct yourself in a job interview? You project confidence. You’re saying yes and trying to show the interviewers that you are their guy.
Plus, this, boiled down, is the college football alpha dog convention.
So, when Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson was asked Sunday if he was surprised offenses kept testing him during his massively successful, consensus all-American 2017 season, he had a definitive answer.
“I’m glad they did,” Jackson answered flatly. “I was just trying to come out and play the best ball I could. They were throwing it to me, and I was just trying to be the best corner and make them pay.”
Jackson is a high-interest prospect. He said Sunday that he’d already had formal interviews with 14 teams and had 12 more lined up Sunday night.
Jackson started just one season at Iowa, but he started the living daylights out of it.
He led the nation in interceptions (eight) and passed defensed (26). His two pick-sixes tied for the national lead. Jackson redshirted in 2014 at Iowa, when he arrived from Corinth, Texas (Dallas area). He’s just 12 credits short of his degree from the University of Iowa.
As his brilliant season unfolded, it became more and more apparent, that Jackson would/should forgo his senior season. It was a no-brainer and no one at Iowa blinked when he announced his decision shortly after the Pinstripe Bowl.
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“I definitely wanted to wait until after the season,” Jackson said. “I wanted to respect my team and my teammates. After talking to coaches, and all of my teammates, they were very supportive of what I wanted to do and thought it was the best decision. I thought it was the best decision, so I wanted to forgo my senior season and take the opportunity for a shot at the league.”
Jackson said the fact that he did start just one season has come up. Jackson counters with the fact that he played behind two NFL-caliber corners (Desmond King and Greg Mabin) and did see time in nickel sub packages.
“I had the opportunity this year and I just wanted to come out and show I’m ready to play and show we didn’t lose a step on the back end,” Jackson said.
The big question for Jackson is what his 40 time will be. It could be the difference between the top 15 and top 30 picks for Jackson, who tests in the 40 on Monday.
“He’s got to run fast,” NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “And that’s the concern there.
“He’s a long press corner, but he’s at his best when he has his eye on the QB. When he can jump and be instinctive and go get the football. His ball skills are great. So if he goes out and runs 4.5 plus or minus, I think that’s a good time for him. He doesn’t need to run 4.38. His length and with his ball skills, I think 4.5 is where I have him.
“Is he that fast? I don’t know. If he runs 4.58, it’s a different conversation. And he might be. But I love his ball skills and his instincts.”
The 40 question was the first one Jackson fielded Sunday. The one-year starter thing? That won’t mean anything if Jackson hits what he’s shooting for in the 40.
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“I’m looking to run a high 4.4 or a sub-4.5. I need a good run,” Jackson said. “All of the other drills, I’ll do well. I’m just looking to run a good time in the 40.”
Another criticism Jackson said he’s heard from teams is use of his hands. This one is tricky. Jackson used his hands enough in college. In the NFL, anything handsiness after 5 yards is illegal contact and a first down. Jackson, who measured at 6-1, 192 pounds, put up an impressive 18 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press Sunday.
“It’s just going to take a lot of repetition and practice, being able to move your feet a lot more efficiently, being able to use your hands more and respect the 5-yard rule,” he said.
Jackson had praise for Iowa defensive coordinator and secondary coach Phil Parker, who’s helped put maybe a dozen Iowa defensive backs in the NFL.
“He did a fantastic job of developing me and all the other corners that came through,” Jackson said. “He’s a tough-minded coach. He’s going to push you each and every day. He’s never going to let you sit back and be complacent. That’s something that I took pride in, coming out every day and just trying to perfect my craft and be the best I could be.”
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