It was kind of a throwaway question and sluffed off answer early last week when Eddie Jackson met with reporters prior to Alabama’s game at Ole Miss:
Had Jackson, Alabama’s All-America candidate at safety, ever lobbied Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban for the opportunity to return punts or kicks? After all, Jackson had shown the ability to catch the football with his 9 career interceptions for 303 yards. And he had shown the ability to run the ball back, as evidenced by his Bama record of 230 return yards last year and his total of three interceptions returned for touchdowns – including a 55-yard runback earlier this year. His three interception returns for TDs is tied for the Alabama record.
Jackson didn’t offer any clue that he might be the deep man on punt returns against Ole Miss. He said, “Sometimes in practice,” he might have suggested it.
“But I don’t control that,” he said. “Coach Saban does.”
Jackson got the opportunity in Oxford Saturday, and his 85-yard punt return for a touchdown was part of a late second half rally that helped the Tide to a 48-43 win over Ole Miss.
It was Alabama’s first punt return for a touchdown since Cyrus Jones went 57 yards for a score against Michigan State in last year’s College Football Playoff semifinal game in the Cotton Bowl.
Jackson’s return is tied for eighth longest in Alabama history.
Jackson, a 6-0, 194-pound senior who was Defensive MVP in Alabama’s national championship game win over Clemson last year, was proud of his achievement against Ole Miss. “I think it made a big deal,” he said. “We needed a big play and I was glad I was able to make it.
“The punt route returners made good blocks for me. I saw a lane and I just hit it.”
Overall, Jackson said, “We’re going to fight. We knew it was going to be a tough one and we had to come in and play four quarters. We allowed some big plays and made some errors, and there are some things we need to work on, but it was a good win.”