There are some players that fly under the media radar, but not that of NFL teams. Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is one of those players. Coming out of small-college Alabama State, Jackson was a name that may have surprised a lot of Vikings fans, but not the coaching staff – which saw the potential for greatness in their second round pick.
Jackson had drawn a lot of interest from teams that were considering him in the third round of the draft and, being positioned in the second half of the round with their two picks, the Vikings knew they had to act fast in order to lock him down. With Jackson watching the draft as the second round was drawing to a close, his phone rang and it was the Vikings on the other end.
"I got the phone call right before they traded up and they said it was the Vikings," Jackson said. "I happened to look at the TV to see they had traded up picks. I was very excited. I was trying to hold it in and everybody got excited for me more than I did."
While Jackson isn't going to be an immediate replacement for Daunte Culpepper, the Vikings see much of the same athleticism in Jackson that they saw in Culpepper when he was brought in out of Central Florida – up to the point that Jackson could draw comparisons himself.
"We ran a multiple offense," Jackson said of the Alabama State offensive attack. "We pretty much did everything. This year we were more of a spread (offense) – kind of similar to stuff the Vikings did when Culpepper was there -- run first and pass second."
Jackson's career took a sidetrack early on when he transferred from Arkansas to Alabama State. Stuck behind 2005 first-round pick Matt Jones at quarterback, Jackson was getting mixed messages. He believed he had the stuff to be an NFL quarterback but feared he might never get his chance, so he transferred to Alabama State and was a three-year starter – a decision he never regretted.
"I felt like they were going in a different (direction) with (Jones) and I felt I was good enough to play," Jackson said. "They were telling me one thing and doing another. I felt like they wanted what was best for them and I did what was best for me. I wanted to play. I didn't want to sit behind and watch.
However, that is likely what Jackson is going to have to do as he begins his Vikings career. Likely to be the third quarterback on the team in 2006, he will get a chance to learn from 38-year-old starter Brad Johnson. Jackson has a lot of respect for Johnson – his quarterback coach last season was former Buccaneer Reggie Barlow, who was a member of the Bucs when they won a Super Bowl. When the time comes that Johnson steps away, Jackson believes the apprenticeship he'll have now will be a valuable learning experience for when it comes his time to take the reigns and lead the offense into the future.
"It will be a great opportunity," Jackson said of learning from Johnson. "He is an older guy who won a championship. (Barlow) told me a lot about him. It will be a great fit for me. He is a little older, but he is still playing really good. I just want to get in there and learn as much as possible from him before he leaves the game."
And when that time comes, the Vikings believe they will have the quarterback in place that will lead them into the next decade.
Jackson Curbs Enthusiasm
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