D’Qwell Jackson has been working tirelessly for this moment his entire nine-season, 113-game NFL career.
Sunday’s AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals will be the first postseason experience for the Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker. The Colts (11-5) and Bengals (10-5-1) kick off at 1:05 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium.
This is why Jackson signed with the Colts in the offseason, for the chance to play in the postseason and win a Super Bowl ring. After eight seasons in Cleveland, he’s finally got his shot. The playoffs were a long time coming.
“That’s why I play the game,” Jackson said. “This is why I play and especially having the opportunity to be here.
“You look around you, there’s banners everywhere, here, at the indoor facility, the locker room, so there’s constant reminders of we win here. I love that. I love that because what else would get you through the dog days if you didn’t love what you were doing, if you didn’t want to be here in these type of situations.”
Jackson led the Colts with 140 tackles, which ranked sixth in the NFL. He had a career-high four sacks and four fumble recoveries, returning one for a touchdown. He was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate.
Asked if he’s ever played in a game this important, he said, “No, never. Maybe back in high school, but not at this level. No, not at all.”
Jackson, 31, admitted he’s still dealing with the reality of the situation. That means preparing as much as possible, which included going off to study more game film of the Bengals after his Thursday interview.
“I don’t know what to make of it just yet, but it’s definitely a great feeling to stand here and be talking about the playoffs,” he said. “You feel humble. You put in a lot of work. We all have in this building. It’s just great that we’ve earned the right to get to this point and hopefully we make the best out of it.”
The Colts defeated the Bengals 27-0 on Oct. 19 at Lucas Oil Stadium. But several key Bengals, including Pro Bowl star receiver A.J. Green, missed that game due to injuries. Jackson didn’t even look at that game film. Too much has changed since then.
He appreciates the finality of the playoffs. One bad game and you’re done. The teams that play the best move on, the ones that don’t go home.
“Absolutely, you have to,” Jackson said, “I don’t know who doesn’t. It’s an honor. It’s a privilege. Every guy in this building, you all, myself, we’re all blessed to be here at this moment. You can ever lose sight of that. When you do, it’s time for you to do something else. That’s the attitude I’ve always tried to walk around with and that’s what I’ll continue to have.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.