Though the Indianapolis Colts already had multiple linebackers on their roster, they used their sixth-round draft pick (No. 203 overall) on a “project” player with some risk but potentially high reward. But let’s get the presidential jokes out of the way.
President Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of these United States, was born somewhere along the border of the two Carolinas; football Andrew Jackson hails from Lakeland, Fla. President Andrew Jackson made a name for himself at the Battle of New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812; the Colts host the New Orleans Saints in the third preseason game (nationally televised, Aug. 23), so let’s hope Jackson uses this opportunity to announce his arrival in the league. President Andrew Jackson was nicknamed “Old Hickory” because his troops said he was tough as old hickory wood; if football Andrew Jackson delivers, brace yourself for every TV announcer to use this line as though it’s clever and no one else has thought of it (though, let’s be honest, there are way worse nicknames and we should probably just go for it).
Jackson has been on the Colts’ radar for a couple of years, and it’s not hard to see why. He considered entering the draft last year but opted to stay for his senior year with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (one of my favorite mascots in all of college sports). He attended the same high school as Ray Lewis (a guy Chuck Pagano was well familiar with back when he ran the Baltimore Ravens‘ defense). He has the right body type for the position (6-foot-1, 254-pounds). He’s reportedly quite good at run-stopping, which is something the Colts have long struggled with and something coach Pagano has been trying to improve. When Alabama played Western Kentucky in 2012, no lesser man than Nick Saban described Jackson as an SEC caliber player with a lot of toughness, and a guy who plays the way a defensive player should play the game. All that being said, Alabama beat the Hilltoppers 35-0.
Jackson’s coach at Western Kentucky was Bobby Petrino, a man well acquainted with both on-field success and off-field issues. Petrino seems to have been a positive influence in some of Jackson’s “off the field immaturity” antics. He suspended Jackson from the Hilltoppers on Oct. 30, 2013 for violating team rules (apparently he missed a team meeting) with the understanding that Jackson could return to the team once certain unnamed criteria were met. He didn’t travel for the Hilltoppers’ game against Georgia State, but he met coach Petrino’s requirements to return the next week against Army. He hardly seems like a project of Lance Stephenson proportions — just a guy who could use some positive guidance and accountability.
Jackson, who will wear No. 54 for the Colts, isn’t likely to start his rookie year. He might not play much at all (he didn’t play much his freshman year with the Hilltoppers, either). But given their stable locker room and Pagano’s history of molding defensive players, it will be interesting to see Jackson’s progression to years two and three of his career (he signed a four-year contract). The Colts’ current inside linebacker corps hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire (list includes the quite good Jerrell Freeman, the relatively anonymous Mario Harvey and Kelvin Sheppard, and Cleveland rescue D’Qwell Jackson). There could be room for Jackson to break though given the right circumstances. With a little patience, he could turn out to be exactly the sort of gem Ryan Grigson prides himself on mining.