One in a series previewing the 2018 NFL Draft on April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Donte Jackson doesn’t just want to be the fastest man at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. He wants to be the fastest man in its history.
Jackson, the LSU standout, is hoping to break John Ross’ record of 4.22 seconds in the 40-yard dash next week in Indianapolis. He’s certainly put himself in position to do just that, too, training at Michael Johnson Performance.
Johnson is one of the best sprinters of all-time, owner of four Olympic gold medals, and knows what it takes to reach greatness. But Johnson also has a simple goal when it comes to training Jackson.
“Our job is to make sure that we don’t make him slower,” Johnson said, laughing, “but also make sure he understands this isn’t about just running as fast as you can. This is execution. In order for him to run the best time that he’s capable of running, he’s got to actually get out and get a very good start. He’s got to get a really good drive. Those are all phases of a race, phases of execution of a 40-yard dash. That’s not something he’s used to.
“He’s used to just being fast. Turn it on, and I run fast. This is different. In order to be as fast as you can, you don’t just turn on the speed. You’ve got to turn on the speed, but it’s got to be optimized, and that’s what we’ve been working on.”
Jackson said he’s run a hand-held time of 4.24 as a freshman and a laser time of 4.29. Even though he is eyeing the record, he put more modest expectations on himself when asked a specific time for the 40.
“I want to run lower than a 4.27,” Jackson said. “That’s like the goal that I set for myself, so that’s the goal that I’ve been working toward. Obviously, I want to break the record. But just breaking the record is something you can’t think like, ‘Oh, I want to go break the record.’ I want to set a goal for myself that I know I’m going to reach, and then if I just happen to break the record while doing that, I’ll take that, too.”
What’s the story behind your nickname "Action" Jackson?
“Cause I’m action. I’m about action. Every time I get on the field you’re going to probably see something crazy from me. It’s a name that came with me that I got it in high school and, when I got to LSU, it stuck with me. Action Jackson. It’s cool. I like it.”
When the ball is in your hands, you’re dangerous?
“Most definitely. Ball in the air? I’m dangerous.”
Do you hate the ‘track guy’ label?
“The track label is going to always be on you. I’ll probably be eight years in the NFL, the track label is going to still be on me. It’s something I’ve embraced, I’ve learned to embrace it, but I just have to stop hearing that he’s a fast guy who plays football. I’m a football player who just happens to be fast. When guys see me play, you can see that I’m actually a football player who just has exceptional speed. That’s what I want to be known as – a great corner who can run and not a fast guy who plays corner.”
LSU has become known as ‘DBU.’ Do you keep in touch with former Tigers in the pros?
“I talk to [Buffalo’s] Tre’Davious White all the time. [New York Jets’] Jamal Adams all the time. [Philadelphia’s] Jalen Mills all the time. Those guys are great inspirations on me, guys who showed me the ropes. It’s great having guys like that at your disposal.”
Best and craziest piece of advice Tre’Davious White has given you?
“The best piece of advice that Tre’Davious White has ever given me was just don’t listen to critics. He was a guy coming out they didn’t think he was going to go first round, a lot of people had him going early second, late first, he actually got picked in the first round, so I’m kind of going through something like that right now. He just tells me, ‘Block it all out.’ If you go out there and do what you’re supposed to do, they can’t hold you up out of the first round. That’s been something that’s been sticking with me. “
The craziest piece of advice he’s ever given me?
Don’t intercept [Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski]. Don’t intercept Gronk. He’s probably going to pile drive you or something. That was the funniest piece of advice he gave me. He’s a guy who always just calls on me to see how I’m doing. He’s like a big brother to me.”
Finally, you have a necklace with a Jason mask pendant. Why?
“It’s something to help me. I’m very confident in my ability. I wear a Jason mask to make sure I’m out there going hard. Jason goes hard. He do what he got to do, even though it’s not the right thing. It’s just something I like to wear. Just making sure, just know that I’m always a tough guy.”