Branden Jackson is a rookie defensive end out of Texas Tech with the Oakland Raiders. We had an opportunity to get to know Branden a little bit before the 2016 NFL Draft (interview here), and although he went undrafted, he is one of the most intriguing defensive prospects from this year's draft class. Branden's experiences, both on and off the field, define him as hard working player filled with passion. While some men crumble under pressure, Branden has faced extreme pressure both on and off the field and come out stronger (here's more on his experiences as a college player , he has one of the strongest stories of any player in this year's class). We were fortunate enough to have a chance to do a second interview with Branden Jackson, and here it is. Questions in black, Branden's responses in silver.
Branden, first off, congratulations on your contract with the Oakland Raiders. The draft process was definitely a long experience on your end, first going undrafted, then going to camp with the Seahawks, and finally signing with Oakland. What was it like finally getting the call from Oakland?
"Finally getting the call from the Raiders was a brief second of relief. I exhaled and smiled because I know I belong and can play effectively in the NFL."
How has your experience as a Raider been so far? How are OTAs?
"Being a part of the Raiders has been great. They are a 1st class organization and they carry themselves as one. OTAs have been challenging in the best way. Mentally and physically bettering my game each and every day."
You were a pretty versatile guy in college. Are you working at defensive end and linebacker in camp or sticking mainly to one spot?
"My versatility has been my key to success in college and I believe it's the reason the Raiders chose me to become an addition to the team. I am playing all along the defensive line trying to help the team in every way I can"
You were running back DeAndre Washington's teammate at Texas Tech. What's it like to team up with him again in Oakland?
"It's great having a familiar face in the locker room. It's even greater when the familiar face is a guy you went to war with 5 years prior to 2x Raider"
The Raiders are a strong young team with some great players. Are there any players on the roster that you have enjoyed working with in particular?
"I'm constantly watching film on Denico Autry. He's a great player for the team who's had a similar journey as I am facing now. Going undrafted in 2014 Nico has turned himself into a NFL starter."
In our last interview, you mentioned that raising diabetes awareness is an important cause for you. Are there any organizations or projects that especially draw your interest along those lines?
" I have yet to familiarize myself with any charities. My goal currently is making the 53 man roster. Immediately after earning a spot among the teams active 53, I will partner with the Raiders to raise awareness on diabetes."
Looking forward at Oakland's 2016 schedule, are there any games in particular that stand out to you? Who do you most looking forward to facing as a professional football player?
"I am looking forward to the 1st prseason game Aug 12 against Arizona. No one in particular just want to compete at a high level"
How is the game different at the NFL level compared to in college?
"Playing in the NFL is different than playing in college because it is now a business. No longer do you have to balance school and football, the way you have since the day you fell in love with the game. Now it's all football all day. This is your livelihood and as my coach Jethro Franklin always says,"it's not a crime to make a mistake it's a crime to repeatedly make the same mistake."
What was the reaction like in your home town of McKeesport, PA when you signed with Oakland?
"My hometown was excited and supportive. Received a lot of love from those who played a role in toughening me up and developing my grit."
Many great defensive players have gone undrafted, from James Harrison to London Fletcher to John Randle. Malcolm Butler made the game winning play for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX as an undrafted rookie. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. You have the heart, the passion, the talent, and the work ethic to make an impact as a UDFA in the NFL as well. What are some of your goals for this season?
"The only goal I currently have set is to make the Oakland Raiders 53 man roster nothing else deserves my all right now."
You have had some tough experiences along the way, and are a great role model for kids playing the game in high school and college. What advice would you give to young players trying to make a name for themselves?
"Never give up. It's often said "nothing will ever hit you as hard as life" and thats true. However it's not a bad thing. Embrace the struggle. Face your fears. At the end of the day those two things many believe to be negative, will drive you to greater heights than the most positive things are perceived to. Keep God 1st and always trust the process."
Thank you for your time Branden, and best of luck heading into the season! Here at Matt and Mike Sports, we're rooting hard for you, and can't wait to watch you on the field this season!--Mike Bertasso and Matt Koontz
"Thank you for the continued support. Look forward to working with you in the near future "
We would like to thank Glen Wallace from Peterson Sports for facilitating this interview, as well as Branden for taking the time to do 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. Here at Matt and Mike Sports, we are thrilled to see Branden's NFL career beginning.
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