For an undrafted free agent, Giants defensive back Brian Jackson has had an eventful and relatively high-profile indoctrination to NFL life. He started out with the Jets and was featured in an episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks" training-camp reality series as the object of a hazing ritual. After being cut, Jackson was picked up by the Giants, who elevated him from the practice team this week to make his first NFL start on special teams against Chicago Sunday night.
Kickoff coverage has been a problem for the Giants, and coach Tom Coughlin said he's anxious to see what Jackson can do as one of the "gunners" on the outside of the formation whose job it is to get downfield in a hurry and contain the return man inside the coverage. "They're giving me an opportunity, so, I'm going to showcase my skills," Jackson said. "I know what I'm capable of doing. Special teams is just flat-out 'want to.' It's a blessing, so, just go out and play the game you love."
Ordinarily, Jackson might be just another faceless special teamer, but he gained a measure of notoriety with the Jets. It was a hot August day when the Jets were holding their final morning practice at SUNY-Cortland, and Jackson wised off to defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman in a way that upset some veterans. When practice ended, Jackson was bound up, and the vets applied a hot balm to a sensitive area and drenched him in water and Gatorade. It was the NFL version of waterboarding, and coach Rex Ryan later said Jackson was none too happy about it.
But Ryan knew Jackson was capable of throwing long passes, so he gave him a chance to end the afternoon's practice early if he could throw the ball more than 65 yards. He topped 70 yards. That night at the rookie show, Jackson was selected as "King Ugly."
"I was just a little frustrated because the 'Icy Hot' was the bad part of it," Jackson said. "But in the end, all those guys took care of me, they drove me around and they took me out with them and helped me out on the field. They just want you to buy into the situation and the team and the way things are done."
As for how his part in "Hard Knocks" turned out, Jackson said, "It was funny. As long as I got my throw in there, I was good. Then, they did the whole 'King Ugly' thing. That was my day. They went at me pretty strong."
Earlier this week, word came out of Cowboys camp that first-round wide receiver Dez Bryant paid for his refusal to submit to rookie hazing by carrying the veterans' wet gear after practices. Boy, did he pay to the tune of $54,000 for a dinner check run up by the entire offensive unit, if you can imagine such a thing.
Of course, Bryant is in a different income bracket than Jackson, who said, "He can afford it.
"He took the hard way out [of rookie hazing]. I kind of did the same thing. It's all in good fun. At the same time, it's love. They know who is making what and what kind of money is where. It's like, 'Okay, you want to be a big rookie, a first-round guy, you're going to take care of us.' I don't see it as a bad thing. When you have money like that, you can do those kind of things.
"But he's out there making plays right now. You can't argue with the guy. He knew what he was capable of doing. Maybe he can be a little cocky, a little confident."
Jackson's not on Bryant's level, but the former Oklahoma cornerback has plenty of athletic talent and the chance to carve out a niche for himself with the Giants in the future.