Mississippi State University Bulldogs
Amite County High School
One of the most decorated offensive linemen in school history, the two-time All-American and four-time All-Southeastern Conference selection has been a mainstay at the left guard position ever since he made his collegiate debut (52 games ago). The massive drive blocker capped off his four years as a Bulldog with perhaps his finest season, as he was credited with 20 touchdown blocks on the 29 scoring runs by the grounds game, which was the second-highest total of touchdowns by a running unit in MSU annals.
Jackson also holds a very rare distinction, as he became the first offensive lineman to ever win the Conerly Trophy, which is presented annually to the top collegiate player in the state of Mississippi. He would register 294 knockdowns for Mississippi State during his career, adding 47 touchdown-resulting blocks. He never received a blocking consistency grade lower than 80% in any game and has not been charged with a quarter-back sack since early in his sophomore campaign.
Throughout the 2013 season, scouts came in droves and were always in attendance for games and practices to evaluate Jackson, according to the Sun Herald, and one "high-ranking and well-respected" scout was apparently blown away by Jackson's performance: "Really, really impressive. He is one big and powerful man."
Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said Jackson, beyond his natural ability, brings a tireless work ethic to refining the technical craft of guard play. Approach-wise, it's as if Jackson is already in the National Football League. "He's had a great year for us," Mullen stated during a mid-season practice. "He's a guy who has started every game that he's been here for. He's continually improved. He really works as a professional."
"He works at his game, and constantly improving his game, in every aspect of the game," Mullen said. "He has a very serious approach to the game of football, loves it, works at his techniques, his fundamentals. And on top of that, he's a powerful, talented young man."
There was a strong temptation to leave college a year early for Jackson. "It was pretty clear I would have gone fairly high in the draft this year, but I think I can go a lot higher by playing my senior season," Jackson said. "I talked to my family and I talked to my coaches and I made a decision. Now it's up to me to make it pay off."
Mullen said Jackson leads by example more than vocally, but nevertheless commands respect and attention from the team when necessary. "(Jackson leads) more by example, but when he talks, people definitely listen," Mullen said. "He's not a big rah-rah guy, but when he does talk, everyone is certainly going to listen."
Prior to his senior season at Amite County High School, the Mississippi State Bulldogs only signed one in-state offensive lineman – Jackson, who signed with the university on July 31st, 2008, while Rocky Felker was still the team's head coach. The All-State blocker stuck with his commitment through the tough season and coaching change that occurred, as Dan Mullen took over the program in 2009. That faith in the staff from the player would later go a long way in the team reviving its once proud program that had fallen on hard times before both Jackson and Mullen arrived.
At Amite County High, Jackson was regarded as the 52nd-best offensive tackle prospect in the country by Scout.com, as that recruiting service also considered him to be the third-best offensive lineman in the state of Mississippi. Jackson was coached by his father, Charles Jackson, playing on both sides of the ball for him ever since his freshman campaign.
Despite late recruiting efforts from Auburn, Louisiana State and Mississippi, Jackson remained committed to Mississippi State, reporting for fall camp in 2009. He spent that season performing with the scout team, but in 2010, he would begin a stretch of fifty-two consecutive starting assignments at left offensive guard.
Jackson credits All-Southeastern Conference offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, the freshman's partner on the left side of the Bulldogs' front wall for his success in the trenches in 2010. Jackson made 40 knockdowns and was a member of the All-SEC Freshman Team after helping MSU average 214.8 yards per game on the ground, whicj ranked second in the conference and 16th in the nation. In the 14–17 loss to Auburn, Jackson scored a touchdown after recovering Chris Relf's fumble in the end zone.
In his sophomore year, Jackson again started all 13 games at left guard, grading out a champion in five games and recorded a team-high 69 takedowns. As a blocker, he helped the 2011 Bulldogs to reach the top 10 in school history for single-season marks in passing touchdowns (19), pass completions (198), total yards (4,643) and first downs (241).
The Bulldogs offensive line, which also featured James Carmon at left tackle, gave up the fifth-fewest sacks in the SEC (25). Jackson helped pave the way for running back Vick Ballard, who finished fourth in the SEC in rushing (1,189 yards). For the first time since 1914, Mississippi State scored 50-plus points twice in the same season.
As a junior, Jackson was a constant fixture at left guard, starting all 13 games and grading out as champion consistently in all but one game. The Bulldogs offensive line gave up the second-fewest sacks in the SEC (19; 29th nationally), while Jackson did not personally give up a sack all season. In the SEC-opener vs. Auburn, he graded out at 91 percent with six pancake blocks, earning SEC Offensive Player of the Week. He earned All-SEC honors after leading the team with a career-high 96 knockdowns, as he also picked up All-American honorable mention.
The 2013 season saw Jackson receive All-American first-team honors, marking just the 12th time since 1940 that a Bulldogs offensive lineman had garnered that national honor. He was also named All-SEC first-team and was the winner Kent Hall Trophy, awarded to the state of Mississippi's most outstanding collegiate offensive lineman.
Jackson also became just the fifth MSU player to win the Conerly Trophy (best college player in Mississippi). The left guard registered 89 knockdowns and 17 touchdown-resulting blocks in his final season. After the Bulldogs' 62–7 win over Troy, Jackson was named as the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week after recording five pancake blocks in helping MSU's offense roll up 551 yards of offense.
After that game, Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell praised his left guard "Gabe Jackson, he knows everything on the offensive line, everything everyone needs to do," Russell said. "When you have a guy like that, he and (center) Dillon Day who have played together for awhile, they help me out so much. Especially with IDs. Sometimes those guys see things that I can't see, as far as, 'This guy is about to blitz' ... change protection, all that. I saw that last year, and I'm expecting to see it a lot more this year."
Jackson started all 52 games that he appeared in at Mississippi State, recording 294 knockdowns and 47 touchdown-resulting blocks…Became the fifth player in school history to win the C. Spire Conerly Trophy, given to the top player in the state of Mississippi. He joins fellow Bulldogs, running back J.J. Johnson (1998), tailback Jerious Norwood (2005), running back Anthony Dixon (2009) and linebacker Chris White (2010).