The Carolina Panthers signed Virginia FB RaShawn Jackson as an undrafted free agent. Jackson (6-foot-1, 239 pounds) spent much of his senior season at halfback, carrying 96 times for 461 yards, but his future in Carolina is as a lead blocker. He looks to capitalize on the departure of franchise mainstay Brad Hoover and win the backup job behind Tony Fiammetta.
For more, we check in with UVA special teams coordinator Anthony Poindexter.
LaShana Marshburn: You spent five years working with RaShawn. What can you tell us about that experience?
Anthony Poindexter: He's a great kid. I've watched him grow from his days playing prep football in New Jersey. We got him to come to UVA and I'm proud not only that he's in the NFL, but that he got his diploma from UVA.
FB RaShawn Jackson
AP: No, I just look at his whole career. I got him to move around multiple positions and he was always able to learn them and was always able to perform.
LM: The biggest blemish in RaShawn's college career may be the grand larceny charges he faced in 2008 for allegedly breaking into an on-campus dorm room. Although the charges were dropped, do you think this is a sign he needs to mature?
AP: I just think kids, when they are in college, find themselves in situations. His name was brought up with a charge, he went through the legal process and the charges were dropped, so obviously he didn't do it. But you know, he's a young kid and he's just got to understand the decisions you make affect you for a lifetime. I think RaShawn is very intelligent and he's a good kid in the aspect that he's got respect for people. I think he'll be just fine if he listens to people who try to give him good advice.
LM: What did you think of his decision to sign with the Panthers?
AP: The kids today have agents and hopefully they are getting good advice. Obviously, Carolina signed RaShawn, so they must want him. I think he has the chance to make the final roster or help them in some way, so it's up to him now to perform. You've got to perform every day; if you do that, you've got a great shot.
LM: When you talk about performing, what skills in particular must he showcase?
AP: He can play on all special teams, tailback -- he was a tailback here for a while -- and fullback. He can block or he can take the ball and run with it. He kind of reminds me of a kid we had who plays for the Atlanta Falcons, Jason Snelling. He's a very versatile player with size and speed.
LM: Where will RaShawn need to improve to be as successful as Jason?
AP: When you go to the NFL, there's competition every day. It's not like college where you have 100 some players on a team. There are 53 guys that make the roster, so you have to get some breaks along the way. But RaShawn has the tools and skill-set to be an NFL player. Hopefully, he can work hard and be able to play a lot of different positions. If he can do that, I think he has a good shot at making it.
LM: What is RaShawn like in the clubhouse?
AP: He's laid back. He likes to have fun and jump around. I love him like he's one of my own.
Is R.J. one of training camp's "players to watch"? Discuss in the message boards.