PART I: Vettel 1-on-1 With Chad Jackson

Back around the time of the NFL draft when it was obvious the University of Florida would not have a first round pick, I started thinking about the next Gator who would go in round one. I quickly decided the best candidate for that honor was not quarterback Chris Leak or veteran center Mike Degory but Chad Jackson. The junior from Alabama has the physical tools to be a superstar and all indications are this offense will give him every opportunity to showcase them.

Jackson has the size and speed that most receivers (and receivers' coaches) dream about and I look for him to total 1,500 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, and returns) this fall.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Chad and talk with him about preparations for the upcoming campaign. He's not only come a long way as a player, but the personal development is obvious as well.

LARRY VETTEL: Chad, how eager are you to put an end to off-season conditioning and get practices underway?

CHAD JACKSON: I'm really eager right now to get camp started and hopefully camp will go by fast and we'll be ready for the season.

LV: Has the off-season been much different than last year?

CJ: It's completely different. I've never worked out like this or run like this or lifted weights like this. It's just getting me better. It's hard, but hard works is what it takes if we want to be good.

LV: Give me a sense for what is pushing you harder than before.

CJ: It's just more of everything. We run more and lift weights more and lift heavier weights. And we're doing everything the right way; they make sure we do everything right.

LV: The Gators have had no public issues with misbehavior this summer. Is that because nobody wants to make Coach Meyer mad?

CJ: Oh yeah, you don't want to do that. You can't mess up and get in trouble like has been happening with other teams. You don't want to be the first one to go mess up. It's just a bad idea.

LV: How much has coach emphasized the need to do things the right way, not only in team activities, but also in your every day life?

CJ: He talks about it a lot … he's punished us if we're doing wrong or close to doing wrong. We'll have a meeting to talk about it and he lets us know what's on his mind about staying out of trouble and living right.

LV: One thing Coach Meyer told us about is his emphasis on the relationships between players and their position coaches and how important he thinks it is for the program. How is that process coming along and what's your relationship with Coach Gonzales?

CJ: It's really good right now. Coach invites us over dinner and calls every now and then just to talk and see what we're doin. He always makes sure we are going to class and making our tutoring sessions and this and that.

LV: Is it more involved than it was last year?

CJ: Yeah it is. Last year we didn't do stuff like that we'd call our coaches once in a while and that was about it. Now we see these coaches are really trying to get to know us. And they want to know what's going on in our lives and with our families.

LV: Well your family will get a chance to see you up front and personal this year when the Gators play at Bryant-Denny Stadium. What's it going to be like to play at Alabama October 1st?

CJ: I don't know what it's going to be like. I don't know if people are going to congratulate me or throw stuff at me, but I'm really looking forward to it. It's about 40 miles from my home town and there are a lot of folks ready to see me play.

LV: Do you think about it a lot?

CJ: Yeah, I've been thinking about it ever since I first saw in on the schedule. I don't know how it's going to be, but I just hope things work out well for me.

LV: Have you talked with Markus Manson about it? You grew up 40 miles from the stadium but he was more like FOUR miles away from the campus.

CJ: Yeah, we've talked about it quite a bit and how it might be a little harder for me and a little easier for him. When we go down there, we'll see what it's like.

* * *

Chad Jackson is obviously ready to get after it for 2005. In part two of our conversation, we'll talk about the new Gator offense, how it fits, and Chad's view on what the Gators can accomplish this fall.

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Have a great week.

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