Michael Jackson might be running for public office, but the former Raven still talks like a football player.
Glad-handing his way through Louisiana, where he is a candidate for the state legislature, Jackson tells voters, "The only way I can help you is if I am your first-round pick on Oct. 20. I have to be drafted by the people."
At 38, Jackson hasn't changed from the stylish, self-assured wide receiver who starred in the club's early years (1996 to 1998). He arrived from Cleveland in a Mercedes-Benz convertible with a 30-suit wardrobe, a gold hoop earring and a shaved head.
"I'm still bald," Jackson said, "but part of that now is nature's blessing."
His best year was 1996, the Ravens' first in Baltimore, when Jackson caught 76 passes for 1,201 yards and 14 touchdowns, the latter two team records.
Tall and gangly, he liked to bait defenders before the snap, telling them what route he was going to run.
"Some [cornerbacks] would take heed, but most didn't," Jackson said. "In those situations, the truth is the last thing a person will believe."
Once, before a game in Jacksonville in 1996, he broached a fan who was harassing Jackson from his seat in the end zone.
"I told the guy, 'I'm going to catch a touchdown pass right here, in this [left] corner, and then I'll throw the ball to you,' " Jackson said.
Sure enough, before halftime, he caught a touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde on the spot. Jackson pitched the ball toward the stands - with gusto.
"I must have thrown it pretty hard, because the [NFL] fined me $500," he said.
Slowed by injuries and stymied by the Ravens' new short passing game, Jackson became a free agent after the 1998 season. After a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks, he retired at the age of 30 and returned to his hometown of Tangipahoa, La., 30 miles north of New Orleans.
There, in a disadvantaged community of 700 people, he owns a nightclub and the music production company he started in Baltimore.
The town was wracked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Jackson's home was uninhabitable for three weeks after the storm.
"We are a 'Third World' district here, and no attention is being brought to it," Jackson said of the impoverished area he hopes to represent. "It's time to make this a better place."
• With the Ravens: 1996 to 1998.
• Other teams: Cleveland Browns, 1991 to 1995.
• Current job: Owns a music production company and a nightclub in his hometown of Tangipahoa, La.; Democratic candidate for Louisiana state legislature.
• Career statistics: 353 receptions for 5,393 yards and 46 touchdowns. His 14 TD receptions in 1996 tied for the NFL lead that season.
• Fun fact: While playing in Baltimore, he opened a recording studio in an old warehouse on Biddle Street.
• College: Southern Mississippi, where he was recruited to play quarterback but was beaten out by Brett Favre, who had been recruited to play safety.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun