The University of Iowa is a factory for NFL offensive lineman. This year’s hopeful pouring out of Iowa City is Alaric Jackson, a versatile lineman with more than 40 career starts at left tackle.
Jackson spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about how Iowa prepared him for the next level, which position he sees himself playing in the NFL, and what an organization is getting when it uses one of its draft picks on him.
JM: You were born in Windsor, Ontario. As a fellow Canadian, I’m curious to hear how you fell in love with the game. First of all, how long were you in Windsor?
AJ: I noticed your area code (laughs). I was in Canada for a while. I didn’t officially move to the US permanently until the eighth grade. I was back and forth for a while. I was in-between schools.
JM: So you really grew up in Canada.
AJ: I really did. I didn’t start playing football until my junior year of high school. I played basketball my entire life. My childhood dream was to make it to the NBA. I was a 6-foot-7 center and that’s just not good enough. I wasn’t going to make the NBA with those measurables.
I had to pivot. I tried out for football during my junior year of high school. I took off from there. I started receiving a bunch of offers. Football really took off for me.
JM: Tell me more about why you chose football over basketball.
AJ: I had to think about my future. I wasn’t going to get a big scholarship for my basketball abilities. I was an awkward size. It would have been a mid-level college at best. I would have been a pretty good player in college, but the NBA was far-fetched. I didn’t have the height to play my position at an elite level. It was all about my future.
JM: That makes sense. You made a great decision. You ended up at a prestigious football program like Iowa. You made 42 starts at left tackle. How do you look back on your time there?
AJ: Attending Iowa was the best decision I ever made. That’s honestly how I feel. It’s an offensive line school at the end of the day. Iowa builds players from the ground up. If you come in with the right attitude and mindset, you will prosper here.
JM: I want to talk about that. Iowa is an incredible school for offensive linemen, as you said. You experienced it first hand. What do you think it is about the program that allows it to develop O-linemen at such an efficient rate?
AJ: It’s all about the mindset. Iowa brings it every single day. You better be tough, smart, and physical. The coaching staff focuses on the smaller details. Nothing gets past them. It’s not just about the scheme and whatnot.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz is an offensive line guy. It’s like having multiple position coaches at times. We build our offense from the O-line up. We run the ball a ton on offense. Everything we do fits the brand of being an offensive line school. That’s how it’s always been. Coming to Iowa to play offensive line is the best decision I ever made.
JM: It shows on tape. You made 42 career starts at left tackle. You’ve been so durable. Why do you think that is?
AJ: I treat my body well. I approach every single day of life the right way. I’m really big into health and wellness. I used to be a vegan. A lot of people don’t know that about me. I care about my health and the longevity of my body. I believe there’s a certain way to treat your body. I live by that. If you live your life how you want to play the game, football will treat you the right way. Doing the small things right goes a long way.
JM: You must be doing something right. When I turn the tape on, I see an offensive tackle that moves so well laterally. It jumps off the screen. How did you develop that aspect of your game?
AJ: A lot of work went into that. It’s all about the minor details. I do a lot of bending drills during my workouts. I don’t have any restrictions with how my body moves. Being healthy has paid off for me. I use a lot of resistance bands during my workouts.
JM: You’ve played a ton of left tackle, but some people see you playing a different position at the next level. How does the NFL see it?
AJ: I actually went down to the Senior Bowl and played right tackle and guard. My whole mindset was to prove that I’m versatile. I didn’t want anybody to pigeonhole me into just one position. I wanted to keep my options open. I’m staying open-minded throughout this process.
I don’t mind playing either tackle or guard position. I think I can play all four positions. I just don’t see myself as a center. I’m open to whatever. I’m not worried about being that marquee left tackle or whatever. I can play anywhere. I wanna be a versatile guy. If somebody goes down, you can move me to one of those positions.
JM: That’s a great way to look at it. You met with every team in person at the Senior Bowl. Since then, you’ve been meeting with teams virtually through Zoom. How’s that process going for you so far?
AJ: The process is going well. I’ve met with a few teams since the Senior Bowl. I don’t have a list or anything like that. I’ve been in touch with a ton of teams. I wouldn’t even know where to start. It’s been a cool process. They’re getting to know me a little better both as a player and as a person. We’ve been going over some plays. It’s been a great experience. When I first started playing football, I didn’t know where it was going to take me. I didn’t expect all this. I’m so blessed to be in this position. Football has been great to me.
JM: We love to hear that. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what kind of impact is Alaric Jackson gonna make at the next level?
AJ: I’m gonna bring that Iowa mentality with me. I’m going to be smart, tough, and physical. I have every trait to become a Hall of Famer. I’m going to be a versatile team player. I wanna learn from the older guys. I wanna soak up a bunch of knowledge. I can’t wait to get to work.