Today marks 39 days until the first Sunday of the NFL season, meaning that Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff continues by looking at the life and career of the best player in franchise history to don the number 39, safety Eddie Jackson.
Eddie Jackson goes from SEC Star to Chicago Bears 4th-round pick
A native of southern Florida, Eddie Jackson attended Boyd H Anderson High School, where he played as a receiver and safety on the school's football team. Jackson was a star on both sides of the ball and punctuated an impressive high school career with a dominant senior season that included nearly 800 receiving yards, 66 tackles, and five interceptions.
As a recruit, Jackson was generally graded as either a receiver or an athlete, a slight oddity for a player who would eventually specialize on the defensive side of the ball. Nonetheless, Jackson garnered attention from several top collegiate programs, including the likes of LSU, Florida State, and Tennessee, before accepting a scholarship from the University of Alabama.
Jackson joined the Crimson Tide and almost immediately worked his way into the defensive backfield, a feat for any freshman under Nick Saban, but especially so as a defensive back. While Alabama has been historically dominant over the past 10 or 15 seasons, the pedigree of defensive backs that have come through under Saban is quite impressive. Just during Jackson's time at Alabama, other members of the secondary included future NFL stars Landon Collins, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Marlon Humphrey.
Nevertheless, Jackson finished his freshman season with 19 total tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups in just six appearances. During the year, Jackson played almost exclusively at the cornerback position, alongside his duties on special teams. Alabama won the ensuing National Championship game in blowout fashion, but Jackson was used only sparingly throughout the final game.
Heading into his sophomore season, Jackson suffered an unfortunate ACL tear during spring training, but would still go on to start nearly every game for the Tide in the fall. Again serving as a cornerback, Jackson finished his second season with 41 total tackles, two of which were for a loss, an interception, six pass breakups, and a sack. It wasn't until his junior season that Jackson made the transition from cornerback to safety, and it paid dividends for his production on the field.
In his first season at safety, Jackson started in all 15 of the team's games, including both of their wins in the College Football Playoff. In the championship game, Jackson had the only interception of the contest, helping Alabama push past Deshaun Watson's Clemson squad. With six interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, and 46 total tackles, Jackson finished the year as an All-SEC honoree and was named a second-team All-American.
Entering his senior season, Jackson was named as a permanent team captain and continued his collegiate dominance from the safety position. Jackson recorded 24 total tackles and an interception in nine games before sustaining a season-ending knee injury near the end of the regular season. Without their anchor in the secondary, Alabama was not quite able to repeat as champions and would go on to lose the title game to Clemson. Jackson was certainly missed down the stretch, and despite missing the back end of the season, the Alabama standout was named an All-SEC player for the second consecutive season.
After his injury-shortened season, Jackson entered the 2017 NFL Draft, where he was selected by the Chicago Bears as the 112th overall pick during the fourth round. Jackson was the third pick made by the team, and while it is undeniable that Jackson would have been drafted higher if he had not been injured, he has turned into one of the better draft steals over the past half-decade or so.