Branden Jackson is a 6'4, 273 pound defensive end/edge rusher prospect out of Texas Tech. Throughout his career, he has generated 138 tackles 11 sacks, 24 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries (one returned for a touchdown). After a strong Pro Day with a 4.87 40, a 4.55 20 yard dash, and a 7.06 3 cone drill, which nicely augment his 31.5 inch vertical jump, 9.5 broad jump and 20 bench press reps at the Combine, Jackson has done a great job transitioning from linebacker to defensive end while at Texas Tech. He is a high-character, well spoken player who is a proven playmaker on the field (film here). While Jackson has not yet made a huge splash on draft boards, he is a great late-round prospect who will easily outplay his draft position. He compares, in my opinion, to Michael Bennett. He is an extremely underrated player who has the talent to play multiple positions in the NFL. We were lucky enough to spend some time interviewing him, and here it is. Interview questions in black, Branden's answer in maroon.
Mr. Jackson, you are an extremely talented player on the field, and seem like a very high character player both on and off the field. What, in your opinion, makes you stand out as a prospect?
My mindset is my biggest gift. Not only am I a student of the game, but I also understand the concept of the game within the game. What I mean by that is I undestand the purpose of trash talk, the reason offenses use jet motion, why a hard count is being used, why a fake bubble screen is tagged to the end of the play etc.
In 2013, you began to wear the number 9 to honor your brother, Chauncey Williams, who was murdered that same year. What effect has that experience had on you as an individual and as a player?
Losing my step brother was a hard pill to swallow. It was an even harder decision to stay at school and not attend his funeral. That whole experience was one that made me realize how strong my love for football is and how quickly it could be taken away. Chauncey loved the game he wanted to use it as his way out of the neighborhood we were raised in. I changed my number to honor him and every other kid who was taken too soon. It's a way to remind myself to enjoy the game and play it as hard as I can.
Speaking of character, you have mentioned working to not become a product of your environment in other interviews. Given the epidemic of players facing legal issues in the NFL, what can you offer to a locker room as a leader through your own experiences?
As a rookie I would enter the locker room with the mindset of earning everyone's respect. That would be my first priority but after that in regards to leadership I would first lead by example. I would speak up when something needs to be said. I bring to any locker room a guy who practices what he preaches.
While we are on the topic of leadership, who is your role model? Why?
My biggest role model would have to be my grandmother Shelia Alston. She's birthed 4 kids and raised an additional 12 foster kids. As if that was not enough she contributed to raising more grand kids then I can't think of. Through it all I've never heard her complain despite her battle with diabetes and kidney failure. She is the rock of my family, she embodies everything that I am and strive to be. I believe that's where I get my core from, my grit and my toughness.
You have had a successful career at Texas Tech after transitioning from OLB to DE. How does your experience playing OLB impact your play as a defensive end?
My experience playing LB has helped me tremendously as a defensive lineman. The largest impact being instincts. As a backer it's not good enough to read and react. Eventually, you have to be able to feel what's about to happen or what direction a play is going. That's what separates you and that's what I was able to maintain while transitioning to a Defensive End.
Who is your favorite player in the NFL? Are there any players you specifically try to emulate on the field?
My favorite player in the NFL is J.J. Watt. He and Michael Bennett Jr. are two players I try to emulate.
Safety has been a major concern in the NFL in recent years. What are your thoughts on the NFL's new focus on player safety?
The NFL is doing a phenomenal job with protecting its athletes while still maintaining the game's physicality. I'm appreciative for their efforts towards keeping players safe.
What is your greatest strength as a prospect?
My greatest strength as a prospect is my versatility. My ability to line up at multiple positions and still play effectively allows my future defensive coordinator the luxury of playing multiple schemes without having to switch personnel.
If you could choose to accomplish one thing in your career, what would it be?
If I could accomplish one thing in the NFL it would be to receive the Walter Payton NFL Man Of The Year Award. I want to use football not only for my own enjoyment but to help unfortunate youth in my hometown of McKeesport, PA. and also raise awareness to diabetes. Accomplishing that specific award would mean that my efforts are not going unnoticed and I'm potentially contributing to saving someone's life.
What points would you like to make to any scouts who might be reading this interview?
I want all reading to know that stats don't mean the world. Turn on the film and evaluate critically. Look for positives and negatives. Pay attention to the number of positions I play and the number of plays I play. You won't find a defensive lineman playing more snaps or positions than me at a high level. Mathew 20:16 says "the first will be last and the last will be first". Pay close attention to the bible verse. Not only the meaning but "20:16". Ironic/Coincidence that it is the year 2016, maybe but nonetheless Branden Jackson will outwork, out grind, and at the end out shine everyone you believe can do what he does better than he himself can.
Thank you Branden, for your time. We look forward to watching your career unfold in the NFL, and best of luck in the draft! --Mike Bertasso and Matt Koontz, Matt and Mike Sports.
Thank you very much for taking the time out to speak with me. Look forward to doing more of this in the near future.
We would like to thank Glen Wallace from Peterson Sports for facilitating this interview. Glen has asked us to add the following statement, that Glen Wallace, James Peterson and Dave Thompson and the entire Peterson Sports family are very proud of Branden.
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