Chicago Bears wide receiver Jerrell Jackson is ready to settle down. After relocating three times in just more than a year, the former Houston Texan and Jacksonville Jaguar hopes he's seen his last moving van.
"I'm from Houston," Jackson said during veteran minicamp. "So when I was signed by the Texans as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Missouri in 2012, I was elated. I thought that I'd never have to relocate from my hometown."
Unfortunately for Jackson, he and the Texans parted ways shortly after training camp ended last year. The young receiver's next stop was Jacksonville, where he was signed in December.
"I liked the Jaguars organization," Jackson said, "although I didn't really get that much time on the field during games, it was still a good experience."
Jackson was initially placed on the practice squad, then elevated to the active roster on December 24. His contract with the Jaguars was terminated this past April.
"Oh no, not again. Those were my first thoughts when I got the news," Jackson said. "But this time was even worse as I found myself out of professional football. I didn't know when I would be picked up or if any team would have interest in me. The phone never rang once I was cut. For someone who loves football as much as I do, that was very difficult."
He didn't have to wait long, with the Bears signing him a little more than a month later. Jackson characterizes himself as a "porch kid", meaning he watched football from his front porch before he was old enough to play in neighborhood games.
"I don't know, there was just something about it that I liked," Jackson said. "I loved the idea of running, the idea of catching. I guess its no surprise that I ended up at the wide receiver position once high school ball began. Did I ever see myself playing in the NFL? I guess every kid in athletics has that idea at some point. When I was in college that dream became stronger but I had no idea that once I reached this elite level, the journey could at times prove difficult."
Although Jackson didn't grow up a Bears fan, he's watched enough of the team's games on television to be familiar with most of his teammates.
"When Chicago called this past June, I immediately envisioned this opportunity to play with these top talents. I knew this could be a tremendous opportunity for me to progress."
For now, Jackson finds himself buried in the playbook any time he isn't working out in the weight room or on the field for practice. He's kept himself in football shape through private workouts. As far as the mental aspects of his game, Jackson feels that his ability to absorb information quickly should help with unfamiliar plays and terminology.
"It's basically all the same once you analyze things," Jackson said. "Plays go by different names or may have a few new twists included, but once you begin to understand what's going on, it all makes sense quickly. If you've played in the NFL, those things come naturally."
Jackson's believes he brings a strong work ethic, speed and agility to the team. He's impressed by the offensive approach he's seen so far under new head coach Marc Trestman and feels his skill set can be a good fit.
"I'll line up anywhere they want me," Jackson said. "Special teams, anywhere, just name it and I'll be there. I'm just getting back into my groove. I know this is an extremely valuable opportunity and I plan to make the most of it. No more moving vans in my future, or at least that's my plan."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.