Alabama football fans know Eddie Jackson’s impressive football story. Less known is how he escaped a life of danger and failure.
Followers of Alabama football and other top programs are ready consumers of redemption stories. Many of us start believing a wayward (but gifted) recruit can be turned around by his time in Tuscaloosa. Often they are, but some simply cannot escape the bad life choices and relationships made before they left high school.
Former Alabama football player and now Chicago Bear, Eddie Jackson is different. His life got off track early. So much so, his story of recovery is remarkable.
Most of what follows in this post comes from an excellent profile on Eddie Jackson entitled The Road Taken written by Jim Trotter. Some short excerpts are included below but do not miss the full read.
Eddie grew up in a tough area of South Florida. The kind of tough that ensnares boys long before they can become men. His father and older brother were two examples. The senior Jackson spent almost five years in prison after two robbery convictions.
Eddie’s older half-brother, Demar, was a football phenom who was at one point the highest rated recruit in the Big 10 and headed to the University of Michigan. But the program learned of two felony arrests when Demar was a juvenile. Though one charge was dismissed and the other led to an acquittal, Demar lost out on an opportunity to play for the Wolverines and any other top program.
“These streets,” says Eddie Jackson Jr. (Eddie’s father), “they get ahold of kids, and they distract them. They influence them.”
The Alabama football Eddie Jackson came dangerously close to not escaping such a hold. He skipped so much school as an eighth-grader he had to repeat the grade.
I had people here (at the middle school) who told me I should drop out of school.
After two years of high school, Eddie was an academic failure. He was moved to another school where he was not allowed to play football his junior season. Thanks to a special teacher, a coach, a father and mother, and an Aunt, Eddie survived and finally prospered. If not for them, the “problem child” who was twice arrested for robbery would have never made it.
He dominated games during his senior high school season. But he remained a less known 3-Star recruit. In Tuscaloosa, the gifted athlete was humbled in practice trying to cover Amari Cooper. He hung on, he fought back, he learned from Nick Saban.
As Alabama football fans know Eddie Jackson prospered. His two serious college injuries held him back in the NFL Draft, going No. 112 to the Bears. Now some pro football people talk about Jackson’s Hall of Fame potential.
Eddie Jackson listens to that praise and talks about redemption in messages to other young men.
A lot of kids go through stuff. At the time, they’re hot-headed, they’re hard-headed, they ain’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing, they’re getting into trouble. People want to give up on them because they don’t see the bigger picture, so they tell them, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ I just try to tell them what I went through and how all things are possible.
Eddie Jackson played in only eight games his senior season for Alabama football. A broken leg ended his college career and many think the injury and his loss cost the Tide a repeat national championship. He was named a permanent Captain for the 2016 Alabama Crimson Tide.