Snapshot: Alonzo Jackson

Alonzo Jackson knows all about getting in the face of his teammates. His post-game eruption after last year's Notre Dame game was noted in newspapers throughout the country. And the Steelers' second-round pick says he'll do it again in the NFL, even as a rookie.

"I will if I have to," said Jackson, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound end-turned-linebacker. "I mean, I'm about winning. I'm going to bring a winning attitude, a hard-working attitude."

Jackson was the captain and top pass-rusher as a defensive end at Florida State last year. He'd been through championship seasons and sensed his senior season slipping away after a 34-24 loss to Notre Dame. It was Florida State's second consecutive loss, third in four games and dropped the Seminoles' record to 5-3. Jackson went off in the locker room.

"I was a just trying to motivate my teammates," Jackson said. "We had a lot of guys that had got complacent and it wasn't good. I was just trying to show them that I was a leader and, it might not be hurting y'all, but I was here when we were in two national championships and I'm hurting and y'all need to understand this. Y'all need to either pick it up or get on, one or the other, because I'm about winning.

"I'm not really about making friends, I'm about winning and you've got to produce. That's what I was trying to tell them."

Jackson had to be physically escorted from the locker room, but the tongue-lashing had a positive effect. Florida State won its next three games and four of its last five in the regular season. Jackson finished with 13 sacks to lead the team, drawing attention from the Steelers, who went into the recent draft looking for a pass-rusher.

"We feel he's really a special pass-rusher," said Steelers Coach Bill Cowher. "This guy's got the longest arms in the draft. His hands are huge. He's got some very natural rush ability."

At the first practice of this week's rookie orientation camp, Jackson stretched those 35 and 3/8-inch arms to intercept a Brian St. Pierre swing pass to a running back. Jackson loped the 10 yards into the end zone for a touchdown, showing he may indeed have the aptitude to play a new position. Jackson is playing outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme.

"When you make a transition like that you have to focus from beginning to end and I'm trying to do that," said Jackson, who pumped his weight up to 263 for the combine, where he ran an unimpressive 4.9-second 40-yard dash.

"He was working out at 266 for people and I think he wasn't sure where he was going to be played," said Cowher. "We told him we wanted him to lose weight because he played last year at about 254, 255 and he came in this weekend at 255. I think he'll be a lot quicker, a lot better. I think at some of his workouts he didn't run as fast as people thought. He tried to put on the weight to play a new position, but he's a very natural 255-pound guy and that's what our linebackers weigh, right around that."

Jackson was asked how he viewed himself in the Steelers' scheme. "I look at myself as a football player," he said. "When I go out there on the field I'm going fanatically at anybody who has the ball. That's what I look at myself as and I don't think that's a bad thing."

Jackson was born in Americus, Ga., the home of Georgia Tech Coach Chan Gailey, Atlanta Falcons Coach Dan Reeves and New England Patriots safety Victor Green. Jackson was a first-team all-state selection before moving on to Florida State, where he played in every game his freshman season.

As a sophomore Jackson started three games and had five sacks before moving into the starting lineup for good in 2001 and added five more sacks.

Even though he'd played for two national championships and won one, Jackson said his finest moment occurred prior to his senior season, when he was "elected team captain by a landslide and that was the greatest accomplishment for me."

Jackson's greatest off-the-field accomplishment came last December, when he graduated in three-and-a-half years with a degree in sociology. Jackson rushed his studies so that his dying father, Eddie, could see him graduate.

"He said it was one of the best moments in his life and I'm glad I was able to give it to him," Jackson said. His father died three weeks before the NFL draft.

"All of this is dedicated to him. I couldn't have done it without him. He's my guiding light."

So Jackson's pro career will represent a new beginning in more ways than one. First he'll concentrate on his new position with the Steelers.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "If they want me to swing off the poles or something, I'll do it. I'm just ready to play ball."

Jim Wexell
Steel City

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