In the wake of spring practice and the NFL draft, The Columns caught up with Missouri safety Kenji Jackson to discuss Mizzou football, the draft, and the rising star’s future.
The Columns: Now that the NFL draft is over, what was it like to see so many of your former teammates drafted?
It’s really exciting to see so many of my former teammates get drafted to the NFL. If I recall, we had about 8 or 9 guys get a shot so it just goes to show what kind of players we have here at Mizzou.
The Columns: Especially what are you thoughts on Willy Mo? How much has he helped your development and what have you learned from him?
William Moore is like a big brother to me. Coming in as a true freshman, he quickly took me under his wing and showed me and told me what it would take to be the best. When playing safety, it’s easy to dwell on the mistakes you make, when really you have to have a short term memory – good play or bad play.
The Columns: How is your role going to change this coming year as opposed to last season?
Opposed to last year, this year my role will consist of more of a leadership role. Last year I was able to contribute and make plays with a defense full of seniors and now this year I will have to produce more at a high level and be consistent with my abilty to make plays. Hopefully my hard work and investments into our team will allow some of the younger guys to jump on board and blossom into the real players that they are.
The Columns: How will the 2009 Missouri defense be different from last year’s?
‘Speed Kills’ is a phrase that is often said in the football now a days. This year’s defense will be faster and more menacing than last year’s. We have 11 guys that can sense the ball like a shark can sense blood in water, and when we get there you better believe there will be a frenzy. Last year’s D was a very talented group, but we are striving to be better without a doubt.
The Columns: What are your expectations for this year’s team?
I expect this years team to have a work ethic that will be noticeable. People expect this to be a ‘rebuilding year’ for the Tigers, but we have a different plan.
The Columns: William Moore set a school record with eight interceptions in one season and recorded 11 over the course of his career. Any chance you’ll break those marks by the time you’re done at Mizzou?
Willy Mo is one of the best safeties to ever come through Mizzou. One of my personal goals is to be the best safety to have ever played at Mizzou. I got the chance to learn from the best, so of course my goal is to beat his records.
The Columns: As a true freshman you received as much playing time as anyone on the team. How valuable was that experience and how much will that help you this year?
Being able to play as a true freshman gave me the opportunity to answer all the questions I asked myself coming into playing college football. Were the guys going to be big? Fast? Were they really as advertised? I could now answer yes to all of those questions. Now I know I have to work harder than I ever have before so I can be sure to be ready for whatever comes my way. I know how the speed of the game is, so now I can hone in on the basic skills and be better. My goal is to play better than I did last year, not worse.
The Columns: Missouri has produced some good safeties in recent years. Where do you see yourself in five years?
If the Lord says the same, in five years I see myself playing in the NFL. Maybe re-uniting with Willy Mo somehow (laughs).