Small-School Asa Jackson Plays With A Chip

Undersized and lightly recruited, CB Asa Jackson nearly gave up football.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Monday, May 7th, 2012 at 11:37 am | Categories: Ryan Mink

His parents are both doctors, but since he was 7 years old Asa Jackson only dreamed of being in the NFL.

However, Jackson was so lightly recruited coming out of high school that he almost gave up football.

“I was dead set on going to Notre Dame and running track,” Jackson said. “That was my best offer.”

But two weeks before National Signing Day, Cal Poly came into the picture. The small-framed cornerback visited the next weekend and signed three days later.

Four years later, Jackson realized his dream when he was taken by the Ravens in the fifth round of this year’s draft.

He’s still a bit undersized at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, and doesn’t have the big-time pedigree of many professional football players. That doesn’t matter to Jackson though. He’s going to continue playing with something to prove.

“At every level I feel like I’ve been a little overlooked just because my measurables may not be the best per se,” Jackson said. “I played with a real chip on my shoulder in college and was successful. So I plan on doing the same thing in the NFL.”

Jackson became an elite prospect in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision ranks.

He was named a starting cornerback prior to his sophomore season and never allowed a touchdown while lining up on the outside in three years. He intercepted eight passes and returned them for an FCS-leading 307 combined yards.

Jackson also returned punts since his sophomore year and kickoffs as a senior. He averaged 14.06 yards per punt return, third-best among active FCS players. His return average established a new Cal Poly all-time record.

“I think I’m a dynamic dude with the ball in my hands,” Jackson said.

But can Jackson make the leap to the NFL?

That’s the next challenge for the small-school prospect. It was done by Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb, who was drafted in the third round after playing at Nicholls State.

“I think the NFL is going to be a jump and learning process for any rookie,” Jackson said. “Because I went to a small school, the popular perception is that it’s going to be harder for me. I don’t see it that way. Football is football. Especially now what college you went to doesn’t matter; it’s about balling and that’s what I plan to do.”

Jackson sees special teams as his way on the field. It’s not only possibly returning punts and kickoffs, but being a standout gunner, tackler and otherwise on coverage units.

His speed (4.49 40-yard dash at the combine), combined with his fluid movement through traffic and passion for laying hits make him a prime candidate. If he can shine there, Jackson would have more of a chance to develop as a cornerback in Baltimore.

Jackson didn’t think he would be heading to the Ravens. He had only spoken to them twice in the past six months and received the most attention from the Atlanta Falcons.

But he didn’t think he’d end up playing college football either until Cal Poly showed up. And look how that turned out.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Jackson said. “I’m a real firm believer in that. My journey is a pretty good showing that it’s true.”

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