Josh Jackson: Iowa meteor now orbits NFL

Iowa junior cornerback heading to 2018 NFL draft

Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson intercepts a pass in front of Boston College’s bench to clinch the Hawkeyes’ 27-20 Pinstripe Bowl win over the Eagles last Dec. 27 in New York’s Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

Josh Jackson had one career start for Iowa before the 2017 season. He was on no one’s preseason All-Anything teams.

Eight games into the season that just ended — that’s two-thirds of the regular season — Jackson had two interceptions. He was playing a great cornerback, but no one was saying he was an elite player. Although, I do want it on record that we on the “I On The Hawks” television show in Cedar Rapids were praising him on a near-weekly basis well before he became Josh Jackson, Superstar.

Dude’s a meteor. He finished the season with eight picks to lead the nation. He was a consensus first-team All-American, and a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. And Wednesday, he announced he was passing up his senior season to make himself eligible for the NFL draft.

But it isn’t as if Jackson was hiding in the weeds before his interception-explosion against two of the best teams in the nation, Ohio State (three picks of J.T. Barrett, who threw four against Iowa and just five others all season) and Wisconsin (two returned INTs for touchdowns for Iowa’s only scores).

In those first eight games, Jackson was busting up pass after pass. He led the nation in passes defended with 26, three more than anyone else in the country.

It was totally fitting he got an interception with 1:18 left in the Pinstripe Bowl to help secure the Hawkeyes’ victory over Boston College. That put him alone at the top of the nation in that category, and it tied him with Nile Kinnick, Lou King and Desmond King for the most interceptions in a season by a Hawkeye.

That Iowa had Desmond King and Jackson do what they did in a three-year period obviously speaks highly about the coaching the Hawkeyes’ secondary gets from Phil Parker. So does Iowa’s nation-leading 21 interceptions.

It also says this: King has shown in his first NFL season with the Los Angeles Chargers that he is a special player. That he fell to the fifth round of the 2017 draft was a gift to the Chargers. NFL executives would be wise not to gamble on Jackson lasting too long in the ‘18 draft.