It’s been a whirlwind season for Josh Jackson. The Iowa cornerback emerged as a star in his first year starting and been thrust into the spotlight. The easy-going Texan has taken it all in stride.
That calmness will be tested this month. A finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, he’ll spend Wednesday through Friday in Atlanta at the college football awards. He’ll return to practice on Saturday.
While taking time for postseason honors and preparing for the Dec. 27 Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College, Jackson also is considering his future. His NFL draft stock appears to be rising and he could forego his senior season at Iowa.
“I still haven’t made a final decision yet but I’ve thought about going and coming back,” Jackson said Sunday.
The draft analysts have been touting Jackson as the season advanced. The conversation picked up after he intercepted three passes against Ohio State at the beginning of November. It increased the next Saturday, when he delivered a pair of Pick-6s at Wisconsin.
NFL draft selections aren’t based on the advice of Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay and the like, however. That’s why Jackson is seeking advice from Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff.
“I think we’ve probably got a couple guys that have some thinking to do. Biggest thing is just get them good, factual information, so they know what they are deciding on instead of speculating, that type of thing,” said Ferentz, whose NFL connections help him in extracting accurate information on a player’s NFL prospects.
The coach didn’t name the other Hawkeye who has some thinking to do, but common sense would point to center James Daniels. He’s a third-year junior where Jackson is in his fourth year at Iowa and scheduled to graduate in May.
LeShun Daniels Sr., James father, who played at Ohio State and in the NFL, spoke with his son on Sunday.
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“I know James was more focused on finals and getting ready for the bowl game when I talked with him. I think most of these kids just like to see where they stand before going into their senior year,” LeShun said.
Jackson said he has met with Ferentz and defensive coordinator Phil Parker about his future.
“They said just enjoy the process, stay focused, don’t get distracted. They’ve been helping me out just telling me if I need anything to just talk to them,” he said.
Vanessa Jackson, Josh’s mom, is handling any contact with agents or others regarding the NFL. She wants to make sure her son is focusing on football
“She’s been supportive,” Josh said. “She’s taking most of the calls. I haven’t really talked with anybody. She’s been the force behind it.”
Jackson said he’s not leaning one way or the other right now. His decision still is up in the air. In the end, it’s his choice to make.
“It’s not my job to decide what’s best for (players) because how the heck would I know,” Ferentz said. “I think that ultimately has got to be up to the individual, and we don’t want anybody staying here if they are not (all in with) both feet on the ground.”
Jackson does not have a timeline for a decision. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15.
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“Any time you have a really good underclassman, it’s always a possibility,” Ferentz said. “The last two years, we’ve had two guys that have opted to stay with us with Desmond (King) and Brandon (Scherff) the same way. Both those guys were playing great.
“What I’ve told them, and I’ll tell our guys that are in that category right now is that you’ve already won the game, in effect. You’re a really good player. When you’re 26, you’re going to be playing in the NFL, which Desmond is going to be doing, same with Brandon. It’s really nice in life when you get to do what you want to do.”
Scherff ended up being the No. 5 overall pick in the ’15 draft, receiving a $13.7M signing bonus and $5.5M annual salary through ’19. King fell to the fifth round in April’s draft but still signed a four-year contract worth $2.7M.
The Hawkeyes have lost players early to the NFL Draft. Offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff became first-round picks after their junior seasons.
After waiting three years to become a full-time starter, Jackson is trying to enjoy every step along the journey. He’s excited to soak up the atmosphere at this week’s awards ceremony in Atlanta.
“It’s really a big accomplishment for me. I see the things that Jim Thorpe did and what it is to be named a finalist for such a great award. It’s really cool,” he said.