Standing just a shade over 6-1 and weighing close to 300 pounds, Jackson doesn't fit the bill for many looking for that towering defender that overpowers opponents with his size. What he does is outwork and overpower anyone in his way with a sheer will to succeed. That should carry him a long way this week as the two teams have had little time to prepare for this Saturday's game.
T.J. Jackson should give the Tigers depth behind starters Demarco McNeil and Spencer Johnson on the defensive line.
"It's been pretty good," Jackson tells Inside The Auburn Tigers during a break in all-star practice. "We've been working pretty hard getting ready for the game. This helps me see where I am. I just want to keep working hard and playing hard."
Something that has helped Jackson this week has been an increased level of fitness thanks to Auburn strength and conditioning coordinator Kevin Yoxall. Living just a few miles from the Auburn campus, Jackson has had the luxury, or curse, of being able to come over and get used to the grueling workouts he will face during his career as a Tiger. That has already begun to pay dividends he says.
"I'm in Auburn now working with Coach Yox," he notes. "I'm going to start classes the next summer session. I have to go to Camp War Eagle and things like that. I'm ready to start classes and see what it's like in the classroom. They say it's a challenge so I want to see where I am in that respect, too.
T.J. Jackson is shown at his press conference announcing that he will play for the Tigers.
"I love Coach Yox and he's a great dude, but he's a real hard coach. He's a harsh conditioning coach. He really does what he says he is, he's going to work you. I've never been worked so hard in my life before. He's a heck of a strength and conditioning coach.
"By me going as soon as graduation was over it helped me get in better shape. I'm not saying I'm in better shape than anyone because everybody gets tired, the heat beats you up. I'll just say that I'm better now than I was when we went to mini-camp. Even though in mini-camp I wasn't as tired, but it just feels better knowing that I've been running and lifting. I feel like Coach Yox has pushed me to areas I've never been to before."
Many times players are worried about getting through these types of games unharmed, especially the heat of June in hot and humid Mobile. But that's not the attitude Jackson will take into the game. A tenacious competitor, he says that he's going to the game to win and that's the only reason.
"You never try to just get through something," he says sternly. "I'm looking for myself and the team to do well. I really want to win. It's a tradition here. Alabama has won the past four or five games (actually it is going for a fourth straight win) so I don't want to be the class that drops the ball. We're looking to play hard and play well. They've got some great players over there in Mississippi. We're just going to fight hard."
Auburn's contingent poses for a photo during practice this week in Mobile. Standling left to right are Kevin Sears, Tyrone Martin, Will Ward, Jackson, Monate Pitts, Ben Obomanu and Brandon Cox.
Although they have met each other in their travels to Auburn the past year, this week has allowed the group of Jackson, wide receiver Montae Pitts of Loachapoka, wide receiver Ben Obomanu of Selma, center Will Ward of Prattville, defensive back/linebacker Kevin Sears of Russellville, quarterback Brandon Cox of Hewitt-Trussville and linebacker Tyrone Martin from Benjamin Russell of Alexander City to get to know each other better before they report for fall practice in just under two months. Jackson says that he can't help but notice how this group has all the makings to please Auburn fans down the road.
"We all get along good and they're all great players," he says with a smile. "I feel real strong about us maybe making a run for a national championship, which I believe we can. I love all my teammates. I think we'll do well, I pray we'll do well. If God sees fit for us to do that we will."
Tiger Ticket Extra: Jackson will get some help on defense from Martin, a linebacker from Benjamin Russell High in Alexander City. A relentless defender who seemingly makes every play, Martin has been hampered by a slight shoulder sprain this week in Mobile, but says that he'll be ready for the opening kickoff Saturday. "I feel like I could go but they won't let me practice," Martin says. He adds that he's ready to get the next chapter of his life started when this fall begins. As a matter of fact, he will get started a little earlier than most when he reports in early July for summer school. "I'm going the second summer session. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm excited and ready to go."