During the 2022 NFL season, Kareem Jackson, the Denver Broncos’ strong safety, is attempting to go where few Alabama alumni have gone.
The upcoming campaign will be Jackson’s 13th in the NFL. Twelve Alabama alumni have appeared in at least 13 NFL seasons, including a defenseman, Deshea Townsend.
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Jackson is gearing up to also make this season his 13th as a full-time NFL starter. Only five Alabama alumni have been regular starters in at least 13 NFL seasons — Cornelius Bennett in 14 and Bart Starr, Lee Roy Jordan, John Hannah and Ozzie Newsome in 13 each.
Jackson said he plans to play “as long as my body allows me to.” I’m feeling pretty good right now. Of course, that goes with a lot of me doing things outside of the facility and even here on my own. It’s taking a while to get any sort of momentum going, but I’m still feeling really good, so I’ll go by myself until my body tells me it’s time to hang them up.
Jackson has started 168 of his 176 regular season games. A first-round draft of Nick Saban’s first national championship team in Alabama, Jackson played cornerback for the Houston Texans in his first nine NFL seasons before making a safe trip to the Broncos for the last three years.
Alabama alumni who have appeared in more NFL regular-season games than Jackson include:
· Player Chris Mohr: 239
· Tight end Howard Cross: 207
Linebacker Cornelius Bennett: 206
· Tight end Ozzie Newsome: 198
Quarterback Bart Starr: 196
Cornerback Deshea Townsend: 191
Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan: 187
Quarterback Ken Stabler: 184
· Defensive end Jarret Johnson: 184
Guard John Hannah: 183
Alabama alumni who have started more NFL regular-season games than Jackson include:
Linebacker Cornelius Bennett: 204
· Tight end Ozzie Newsome: 191
Guard John Hannah: 183
Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan: 174
Tight end Howard Cross: 171
Denver has a new coaching staff this year, leading Jackson and his teammates to adjust to a different defensive system.
“For me, I’m still learning,” Jackson said last week. “A new defense system, although similar to last year, but the terminology is different. We do things differently than I’m used to, so I still go to the meeting rooms, I learn. I can help guys who are just trying to process different things. Obviously I’m seeing a new offense on a daily basis, obviously with (quarterback) Russ (Wilson) who’s here to see a guy like him everyday for me, I’m still learning so I’m mentally able to stay engaged.
Jackson and new head coach Nathaniel Hackett hit it off and spend time during Organized Team Activity drills “tweeting” to each other.
“I love that he goes back and forth with me,” Jackson said. “The energy he brings to the table on a consistent basis every day is the mark of a great leader. We enjoy it very much. I think it gets everyone going. It gives us something to look forward to on a daily basis instead of everyone just being silent. Sometimes stuff gets a little old. For me it’s all fun. It’s one of the things I look forward to every day.”
Hackett said there’s a lot to like about Jackson.
“I love some Kareem, I’m telling you,” Hackett said. “I love its intensity and competitiveness. I think that’s something that shows up every day. This is a guy who might be my age, but he’s playing hard every moment. He goes into it. He talks non-stop. He’s playing the game the way it’s supposed to be and I love that about him and I love chirping with him because it just brings that energy and excitement to practice because that’s real football.
One of the young defensemen Jackson is mentoring in the NFL is Patrick Surtain II, who was also drafted in the first round from Alabama. Surtain joined the Broncos in 2021 as a ninth pick and made the Pro Football Writers of America all-rookie team.
“I say this all the time about Pat: A guy that size and speed and still has the technique that he has is rare — to be that young anyway,” Jackson said. “I think I know for him that he wants to be better in every way and he comes out every day and puts the work into it. But I think just the little things, he worked on the little details. I sit next to him in meetings, so I just try to help him with little things I see.
“It was a day-night difference from his rookie year and he had a hell of a rookie year. But now that I see him, he’s so much more patient in everything he does. I look forward to definitely seeing what he does on Sundays.”
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The Broncos have three more OTA practices this week and a three-day mandatory minicamp next week that remains in their offseason schedule before breaking for the summer.
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.