Austin Jackson: Using Past Darkness To Spark A Bright Future

Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — Southern California is known for its lavish lifestyle, beaches and warm weather, but in the life of Austin Jackson, things weren't always as sunny. 

Coming from a family deeply rooted with Trojan history, his grandfather, Melvin, was an offensive tackle for the program from 1973-75. After being a key member of the ‘74 national-championship-winning team, the elder Jackson was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 12th round of the 1976 draft. Jackson also had an uncle that suited up at USC. Growing up, playing inside of the Los Angeles Coliseum is something he always dreamed of doing, but it was an off-the-field incident that shaped him the most. 

The Trojans’ blindside protector has a special relationship with his younger sister, Autumn. The duo is only separated by two years and it's rare to see them apart. 

Autumn suffers from Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA), a bone marrow syndrome that keeps the body from producing red blood cells and, in turn, makes her bones weak. Already a massive human being at 6-foot-5, 322 pounds, Jackson was the perfect rock for her to lean on during her challenging times. 

Over the past few years, Autumn experienced sharp pains all over her body and it was discovered that her conditioning was worsening daily. The only way to improve her prognosis was to find a donor, but the tricky part was that the specific donor had to have the same blood type as her. 

With a condition that affects fewer than 3,000 people across the world, it is extremely rare to find an individual that is an ideal match and the wait can sometimes exceed the duration of an expected lifespan.

Ironically, the person who was the perfect match turned out to be the offensive tackle who had protected her entire life, but she simply knew him as her big brother. Jackson mentioned how the unexpected outcome was a "Godsend" and that "there are 12 criteria through blood that you match” and he matched all 12.

The unexpected positive turn of events gave the family tremendous joy and there were positive developments unfolding about Autumn's condition. 

On July 9, 2019, Jackson laid his life on the line for his life-long quarterback. As he did during his career with the Trojans, he blocked, but this time, his sister’s life actually depended on it. Autumn is now going through chemotherapy and her hair is starting to grow back after a successful procedure.

On the field, Jackson is a mean presence who has served as the rock of USC’s offensive front. He played in a reserved role as a freshman and then went on to start 27 games to finish off his collegiate career. Aggressive hands and play intensity are the areas that Jackson hangs his hat on.

In a brief synopsis of his playing style:

Jackson is accurate and timely with his initial punch at the top of his pass sets. He shows to be great with mixing up the timing of them while also packing plenty of power behind his hands. He gives a nice jolt and it’s clear to see the strength behind them based on reactions and body language from opponents. Jackson’s hands aren’t as powerful as a run blocker, but there’s still lots of intensity contain within them in those portions. 

His aggression levels are always at an all-time high. Even though he doesn’t possess upper levels of power, he believes and plays as such. As a run blocker, he comes off the ball with a dominating demeanor and often tries to flatline down lineman. This is often seen on down blocks or double teams of where he can dish out contact before moving on to climb to the next level. His intensity can sometimes get the best of him as his technique can get sloppy, but it will be much easier to slow him down to focus on those minor details in the future.

It was an uphill battle to return to the field and Jackson had to take a brief leave in order to get himself back into top shape. Teams haven’t shied away from asking.

"It's been in a respectful way,” Jackson said, “but they have asked me about it."

While watching Jackson over the next few days at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, take into account the number of individuals that he has protected, but most importantly the dearest life that he saved. It's an area that's generated plenty of buzz about him in Indianapolis. Combined with his play on the field, it could catapult him into the top-40 picks discussions.

Written By:

Jordan Reid

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Jordan Reid is a Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Gaining experience from various lenses of the game, he has previously served as a college quarterback, position coach, and recruiting coordinator at North Carolina Central University. He now serves as a Color Commentator for FloSports, covering both high school and college football games around the country while also being the host of The Reid Option Podcast.