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December 13, 2013

Jackson put his stamp on Tulsa program

Tulsa linebacker Shawn Jackson was named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday. The 6-foot, 255-pound senior was one of the best in program history at his position.

"I'm excited for Shawn Jackson. It is a well-deserved honor," said Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship. "I'm grateful to the Conference USA coaches who saw the impact Shawn made on the field and voted him this award. Shawn was the glue to an extremely young defensive unit this year."

Jackson was a leader this season for a very young defensive unit that had ten new starters. Jackson racked up 124 tackles, including 76 solo stops, 18.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 quarterback sacks in 12 games. He also led the Hurricane with five interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Jackson amassed eight double-digit tackle games on the season and 15 for his career.

Amazingly, Jackson ranks seventh in the nation for solo tackles, 11th for tackles for loss, 12th for total tackles, 18th for interceptions and 22nd for fumble recoveries.

"Shawn is a guy that our players look up to," said Blankenship. "He has sustained a high level of play for a lot of years. He brings it every day. It's hard to describe Shawn. He's a laid-back youngster in a lot of ways and then gets on the field, and he's just a baller. He finds the ball and is able to make plays."

However, Jackson's career at Tulsa almost didn't happen. On January 30, 2009, just a few days before National Signing Day, he was still waiting for his first FBS offer. Jackson qualified extremely late in the process, and Tulsa wasn't sure they had a spot open.

"I qualified late, so a lot of the schools that were recruiting me had backed off," Jackson told InsideTulsaSports.com at the end of January 2009. "Coach Blankenship has been recruiting me for Tulsa. I'm still hearing from Kansas State and some D-2 schools, like Pittsburg State.

"The Tulsa coaches said they are really filling up, and they're waiting on a couple of guys before they can offer me. They also talked about greyshirting, but they're filling up there too. But I think I'll get an offer from them soon. I sure hope so. I think I might find out just before signing day."

And that's exactly what happened. On February 3, 2009, the evening before Signing Day, Jackson got the offer from Tulsa, and he committed on the spot.

"When Shawn first came to Tulsa, it took him a little time to transition to the speed and the more complicated offenses of college football," said Blankenship. "He was a guy who just lined up to play football and didn't really care if there were three wide receivers or zero receivers. Like many young guys, Shawn was the type of player who was just going to watch the ball, go where it went and tackle the guy.

"He transitioned extremely well into being able to read offenses and react. Shawn directs traffic back there and recognizes alignments and anticipates plays that are being run. He really gets it. Shawn Jackson is an outstanding football player."

A four-year starter, Jackson completed his career second on the school's all-time tackles chart with 401 tackles in 49 games played with 46 starts. He captured the school's career records for tackles for lost yardage (55.5 for -230 yards), quarterback sacks (23.5 for -146 yards) and tied for fumble recoveries (6).

"Playing behind Shawn Jackson has been incredible," said Tulsa defensive back Michael Mudoh. "I have learned so much from him. He has done a lot for this program. He has made a lot of plays throughout his career on the field. Shawn doesn't say much, but his plays speak enough.

"Each year, each game, you put a lot of expectations on Shawn and he never fails to meet them. He has been a great player, and it has been great playing with him and behind him. I will always remember Shawn no matter what."

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