Alonzo Jackson was in his element -- and loving it.
"All everyone talks about is how hot it gets up there (Pittsburgh) but I was like, ‘Man, it has nothing on Tallahassee,' " Jackson said, flashing his trademark smile. "I love working out and running in this Florida heat."
Jackson has returned to Tallahassee after attending the Steelers' required minicamp earlier this month. The former FSU defensive end is learning a new position at outside linebacker.
The Steelers hope to utilize Jackson's speed and size in their base 3-4 defense as well the dime passing defense and a new nickel package the team has put together. Jackson said he will also continue to play rush end as well.
"I really enjoy running around the field, guarding people and just seeing what I can do," Jackson said.
"I have never played linebacker in my life. But I am out there doing a lot of things I like to do -- disguising stuff, making it look like I am blitzing when I am not and dropping (into coverage). I mean, hey, I was guarding (receivers) Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward one-on-one. It was a new experience."
Jackson, selected in the second round (59th pick overall) of the draft by the Steelers, reported to minicamp at 260 pounds, down from the 266 he had weighed during pre-draft workouts for teams. Coach Bill Cowher was initially pleased with the weight loss because the Steelers would like Jackson to weigh 255.
"As long as I can still run like I can run and have the intensity that I have, they are fine with my weight," Jackson said. "It's exciting. I don't think it has hit me just yet (playing in the NFL). I can't wait until we put on the pads and start to hit and then we will see what it's all about (laughing)."
Jackson also is anxious to see how the Seminoles respond this season. FSU has dropped nine games in the past two years and many preseason publications are again questioning the program's direction.
"Everyone has really gotten bigger (physically), and it's good to see everyone out here," Jackson said of his former teammates.
"We (Steelers) work right beside Pitt (university) and you notice that those guys are together the entire day. I was glad to come back here and see that everyone is here together working out."
Jackson, who finished with 125 tackles (72 solos), 23 quarterback sacks and 33 stops behind the line of scrimmage during his FSU career, says it's important the Seminoles remain focused.
Admittedly critical of quarterback Chris Rix, last season, Jackson has softened his stance and believes FSU has the talent to rejoin the nation's elite.
He says it all comes down to hard work -- a trait he's carrying into his NFL career as well.
"It looks like everyone has re-dedicated themselves and want to build the dynasty back up," Jackson said. "I am excited about that. These are my guys. I love this place."