Branden Jackson is a defensive end for the Oakland Raiders. After spending the first twelve weeks of the season on Oakland's practice squad, Branden was activated on December 3rd. Branden Jackson responded by recording a tackle of running back LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills in his first career regular season game. The Raiders defeated the Bills, 38-24 en route to a 10-2 record, and hold a one game lead over the Kansas City Chiefs on top of the AFC West. Currently the Raiders hold a 12-3 record and have clinched a playoff berth. Branden is a rookie, but was an extremely productive player for Texas Tech during his collegiate career. He has a bright NFL future ahead of him. We were fortunate to have a chance to catch up with Branden Jackson for an interview. Questions in black, Branden's replies in silver. Here it is:
Walk us through your first career tackle.
"As I took the field I can't describe the feeling I had. It wasn't so much nerves but more so eager and readiness. I was ready to prove my worth and faith that the organization had in me for giving me my opportunity. When the play was echoed to the huddle Bruce Irvin told me "lets go BJack It's your time". The ball was snapped I attacked the attempted reach block by the offensive tackle and as I looked up it was me and one of the best RBs in the game. I made the play and that's how my 1st tackle took place."
You've spent some time on the Raiders' practice squad. What does a typical week look like for a player working with a team's practice squad?
"I'm not sure how other programs do it but here at the Raiders we do the exact same thing as the active roster. We prepare as if we are active and not practice squad members. The only difference is an additional lift."
How do regular season games differ from the preseason from a player's perspective?
"The competition level is elevated to highs the preseason could never reach. There are less rookies playing so, the level of execution is precise and talent alone won't get the job done. You need to know what's coming prior to the snap."
Jack Del Rio is one of the most underrated head coaches in the National Football League. What are some things that he brings to the table as a coach? What has the road to 12-3 looked like from the perspective of a player?
"Our team is a direct correlation of our coach. He is hard, smart, decisive and loves the game. Coach always preaches you get what you earn in this league. We earned every game won and lost this season, and we focus solely on the opponent in front of us."
What's it like to work with Oakland Raiders defensive line coach Jethro Franklin? How has he helped you develop as a player?
"Coach Franklin is a student of the game; he's a perfectionist. Although this game is imperfect and played by imperfect players, he expects 100% execution. In other words, you can never be perfect but he holds you to that standard so, that its a constant reminder that there is always something you can improve on."
What is it like working with Khalil Mack, another player who has spent time at both defensive end and linebacker?
"In order to be the best you need to know who's the best and what makes he/she great. The best defensive player in the game is Khalil Mack. I study him as if I'm taking a final exam in college. Im working on adding parts of his game to mine, as well as tweaking my game and becoming the best."
In a previous interview, you mentioned watching a lot of film of Denico Autry. How has his experience helped you develop as an NFL player?
"Denico and I have similar stories. That's what makes us click. We both are tweeters, weren't drafted, given a chance by the Raiders to prove we belong. He's become like a big brother to me. He's constantly in my ears reminding me why I have to go harder."
How did your home town of McKeesport, Pennsylvania react to your first career regular season game on the active roster?
"Mckeesport went crazy. I had to leave my phone on silent a week because it was constantly ringing with words of encouragement. I love my city and they love me. It feels great to show the youth of my city that its possible to reach your dream."
What has been your personal favorite moment as an Oakland Raider so far?
"My favorite moment as an Oakland Raider thus far has been the DLine dinners Fridays of game week. we've bonded so much and created a relationship outside of football and I truly believe that's the reason as a group we have gotten better as the season has progressed."
As a Texas Tech alum, what Texas Tech players have especially stood out to you this season?
"Of course Pat Mahomes is the biggest name but the play by Jonathan Giles was great to watch. He reps #9 in the red black and as the prior possessor of that number he's made me proud."
Thank you for your time Branden, and best of luck against the Denver Broncos this Suday! Here at Matt and Mike Sports, we're rooting hard for you through every step of you NFL career. We're both looking forward to watching you achieve continued success both as a player and with the Raiders. Best of luck as you and your team head towards the playoffs!--Mike Bertasso and Matt Koontz.
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 as a member of the Oakland Raiders 53 man roster and making plays!
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