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Marlin Jackson

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Right position, right time for Jackson

By Dave Richard

NFL.com

(March 8, 2005) -- When a cornerback finds himself running down the field one on one with a wide receiver, he is said to be playing "on an island." It's because there are no teammates to help him out -- it's just the cornerback and his man with the ball coming their way.

And while it's not Honolulu, it's exactly the kind of island Marlin Jackson loves to be on.

"Playing cornerback is all about ability," he explained with excitement. "You go out there and you're on an island against another guy battling for the ball."

Jackson, the 6-foot-1, 198-pounder out of Michigan, is battling in a different kind of game as the 2005 NFL Draft approaches. While the cornerback racked up 147 career tackles and set single-game and single-season school records for pass deflections, Jackson finds himself dueling with the likes of Adam "Pac-Man" Jones and Antrel Rolle for the title of top-ranked (and first-picked) corner come April 23.

"I've probably been waiting for this since my sophomore year when I realized I really had the potential to play in the NFL," Jackson said. "Before that, I didn't know if the NFL would be a reality because it wasn't talked about and it wasn't something that I really knew I could do. But after my junior season, when I knew I would have a future in the NFL, that's when I really started to think about it and couldn't wait for that day to come."

The day is coming at a perfect time as far as Jackson is concerned. Never before has the demand for a strong cornerback been so high. The league's rules prohibiting contact past five yards from the line of scrimmage means that solid cover corners who can break up passes will always have a job. This offseason alone, several cornerbacks have joined new teams, complete with eight-figure signing bonuses. Combine that with Jackson's physical nature, and it's almost a guarantee that Jackson will be among the top 50 players picked.

If that's not enough, Jackson is willing to play anywhere else a coach wants him. He has experience playing safety, which he calls a more "brainy" position than cornerback. He's also willing to line up as a slot receiver and play special teams -- be it as a return man or a gunner.

"Playing gunner was fun," Jackson admitted with a grin. "It's a race to get down the field as quick as possible." Jackson went on to express how he loves to make the big hit and hear the crowd react, wishing he could bulk up and play linebacker someday.

All the same, Jackson likes it just fine at cornerback.

"I prefer to play cornerback because I feel it's my natural position," he said. "I'm so athletic and physical that I feel like I can make a bigger impact playing there."

With his decorated collegiate career behind him (he won many awards in the media and was a rare two-time selection to the Playboy All-America Team), Jackson is ready to play for an NFL team. He's antsy to get through the draft process -- the only thing on his mind is getting ready for training camp with the team that drafts him. And getting on his own version of "Fantasy Island."

"I've been going through all this training right now, but I'm just ready to play football," Jackson exclaimed. "Forget the 40, forget the bench and let's play football. I'm ready to get out there on the field and play in the NFL."

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