Player Profile: Kareem Jackson has drive on and off the football field

Denver Broncos strong safety Kareem Jackson (22) celebrates after a play in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Empower Field at Mile High.
Sep 14, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos strong safety Kareem Jackson (22) celebrates after a play in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Kareem Jackson is none too pleased with the current state of the Denver Broncos. He’s exceptionally unsatisfied with his own performance.

On Tuesday, when asked about how the Broncos can get back on the right track, Jackson said, “I’m looking at myself saying, ‘Where can I be better? What situations can I do more?’ It’s all about every guy just looking at themselves and doing more and wanting to bring more to the table.”

Currently, in his 12th season in the NFL, Jackson’s career has not been smooth sailing. Initially being considered a first-round bust, Jackson fought his way to become an integral member of the Houston Texans and later the Broncos.

Like other Denver veteran players Brandon McManus and Von Miller, Jackson is driven by football, family, and his charity work through the Kareem Jackson Foundation.

Growing Up Jackson

Jackson grew up in Macon, GA, and played football at Westside High School as a running back. 

Following high school, Jackson attended Fork Union Military Academy and converted to cornerback. He ranked as a four-star recruit and the 17th-best prep school prospect in 2007. He committed to the University of Alabama in January and was officially enrolled in June.

As a true freshman, Jackson made an immediate splash. He finished the season with the team’s second-most interceptions at three and achieved four pass breakups and 66 total tackles. For his performance, Jackson was awarded freshman All-American honors. 

In his junior year at Alabama in 2009, Jackson started all 14 games. He compiled one interception, 13 passes defended, and 49 tackles.

As a part of a dominant defense, Alabama would go on to win a national championship in 2009.  

With his draft stock skyrocketing, he decided to skip his senior year and declare for the NFL Draft.

The Kareem Jackson Foundation: It’s Personal

Jackson was four years old when his sister Shari, just six years old, was diagnosed with leukemia. He frequented the hospital to visit her so often that the nurses nicknamed him Jellybean because of his love for sugar. 

Although still too young to fully grasp the severity of the situation, witnessing what his sister was going through left an impactful indentation.  

Three years later, history would repeat itself when his mother Rossalyn was also diagnosed with cancer, which overlapped her daughter’s treatment. Because Rossalyn was immunocompromised, she could no longer visit her daughter in the hospital. Both would go on to beat it—Shari in three years and Rossalyn in 6 months.

Tragedy plagued the family again seven years later when Rossalyn’s cancer returned. Jackson, now a teen, understood the gravity of the situation in a way he had been unable to when he was younger. After another round of gruesome treatment, Rossalyn successfully beat it again.

Jackson’s family’s experiences prompted him to launch The Kareem Jackson Foundation in 2012 as a way of honoring his sister and mother. Explaining the decision, he said, “Cancer played a huge part in our household. Seeing them [Shari and Rossalyn] fight and going through what they went through definitely made us stronger as a family and made me stronger as an individual.”

NFL Career: Then, Now, and Tomorrow

The Houston Texans selected Jackson with the 20th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Jackson was the second cornerback taken, behind Joe Haden.

On July 30, 2010, the Houston Texans signed him to a five-year, $13.52 million contract that included $7.36 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $875,500. On March 7, 2015, the Texans re-signed him to a four-year, $34 million contract that included $20 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $9 million.

During his nine seasons with the Texans, Jackson recorded 589 tackles (489 solos), two sacks, 16 interceptions (three of which were returned for a touchdown), 91 passes defended, five forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.

On March 13, 2019, Jackson signed a three-year $33 million deal with the Denver Broncos.

He switched to the safety position and quickly made his presence known on his new team with two interceptions, ten pass breakups, and 74 tackles on the season.  

Unfortunately, Jackson’s 2019 season ended early when the Broncos’ announced they were suspending him for the season’s final two games for violating the NFL’s Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse. Jackson apologized via Twitter.

After the season, new general manager George Paton declined the option on Jackson’s contract, negating the $11 million that he was poised to make in 2021. He eventually re-signed with the Broncos on a one-year, $5 million deal.

Jackson currently leads the team in both solo and total tackles and has recorded one sack and interception on the season.

Despite a strong start, Jackson and the Broncos secondary have struggled immensely. They’ll look to end their three-game losing streak when they pay a visit to an injury-depleted Cleveland Browns on Thursday at 6:20 p.m. MST.

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