By Chris Emma—
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) – The football upbringing on which Bears rookie safety Eddie Jackson was raised is a matter of pride.
Playing at Alabama requires a major commitment – to teammates, to coaches and to winning. It takes putting the team first to individual goals. And, yes, it means getting a verbal lashing from Nick Saban.
Now at the next level, Jackson is proud of where he came from.
“Come there,” Jackson said, “You want to start? You want to be great? You have to buy into the process, you have to take coaching, you have to take direct criticism, you have to be able to turn to your teammates. Things like that really help you and prepare you for this level.
“It’s a great learning experience. Anybody who’s been through that process with him will tell you the same thing.”
There was plenty to like about Jackson coming out of Alabama. The one major setback was his fractured left leg suffered returning a punt during a game last October. He had surgery days later to repair the injury. Jackson said he’s now at 100 percent health after spending the offseason recovering.
Jackson’s next task is to go win a starting job in the Bears’ secondary. The team signed veteran Quintin Demps, who seems slotted as a starter. There’s a vacancy next to him.
“Right now, I’m a full-go, no holdbacks,” Jackson said. “I’m just ready to go out there and compete. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the football field, put on pads. It’s been a long time, so I’m just anxious to get back out there.”
Demps couldn’t give a fair assessment of Jackson after limited views of what he could be. The Bears would love to see the two become a tandem of ballhawks in the defensive backfield.
In 2015, Jackson recorded six interceptions in the Alabama secondary, including two returned for a touchdown. That standout season earned him first-team All-SEC honors and put his name out there as one of the premier safeties in college football.
Jackson also became a dynamic threat in the return game, taking two punts back for touchdowns in 2016 before his season-ending injury.
The Bears are hoping that Jackson can be a game-changing talent for them.
“When I get the ball in my hands, I don’t think about five, 10 yards – I think about touchdowns,” Jackson said.
Jackson has entered a competition at safety that will include Adrian Amos, Harold Jones-Quartey and Deon Bush. He credits secondary coach Ed Donatell as a positive influence in that growth, even comparing Donatell to Saban.
The Bears have a dire need for a player like Jackson who can alter the game with turnovers. They had just 11 takeaways in 2016, with only eight interceptions.
Jackson proved himself at Alabama. Now he’s out to do it all over again with the Bears.
“Right now,” he said, “I’m ready to go out there and take advantage of the opportunity.”