"To be honest with you the summer shot by," Jackson says. "It really flew by. Some of the guys were talking about that and how it was the fastest summer we've ever had. That's good because we're ready to get going and ready to start playing. The third is a month away so we have to start getting ready now."
One of the veterans on an Auburn defense that returns just five starters but plenty of experienced players, Jackson took on the role of a coach this summer for the Tigers in afternoon voluntary workouts. Becoming first a demonstrator and then an instructor for the other defensive linemen, Jackson helped players work on everything from stance and start to pass rush techniques such as the swim move and club move.
Jackson says that after working with the players for much of the summer he's ready to see them in action this fall.
"I'm really excited about the guys we've got coming in and the guys we've already got here," Jackson says. "They worked real hard. That's all you can ask for. You can't make somebody have a lot of athletic ability and you can't make somebody extremely strong. All you can ask for is effort. Coach (Don) Dunn always says it doesn't take talent to give effort and we've got some effort guys out there. They just happen to have a lot of talent. I believe we're going to have a real good group this year. If we get some guys to step up and I think we'll be ready to go."
T.J. works hard to show the young defensive linemen the way to do a drill during summer workouts.
Jackson will be one of just five seniors to see any time on the field defensively for the Tigers this season along with Wayne Dickens, Travis Williams, Antarrious Williams and Kevin Hobbs in the secondary.
Cornerback David Irons is also a senior, but could petition for another year of eligibility following the season. Although the group is a small one, it does have the luxury of featuring players who were already leaders on and off the field before they were seniors. Jackson says that this senior class is one that is looking forward to carrying on the success from 2004.
Jackson is scheduled to receive his college degree on Monday and his fourth year at AU will be spent as a graduate student.
"It's time to eat," Jackson says of this senior class. "Everybody else had their chance and they ate, now it's our turn. We have to work and there's no reason for us not to. We've got all that talent and great coaches. We ought to be able to go out there and compete with anybody. That's just by going out and working. If we go out and work every day there's no reason why we can't go out there and put something together on the third. The guys that were here before us were an amazing bunch, but that's not us. We have to find our own identity. We have to work."
That work begins on the practice field where the defense will continue learning and developing the system under new coordinator David Gibbs, who came in just before spring training to replace Gene Chizik. Expected to play a more physical and attacking style, Gibbs has been a hit with his new players and Jackson said that a summer of continuing education in the defense has the unit ready to get things going this fall.
"I'm excited and I'm ready to go," Jackson says. "Like I've said, I really like Coach Gibbs a lot. He's been doing a heck of a job with us. He sits down with whoever he needs to sit down with and talks with them. He's a real team guy. You can't have too many guys like that. It's amazing. I'm just real excited that he took the time to let everybody get into his defense and get ready to go. I think we're going to have a good season because of that."