As of Sunday, it still hadn't quite set in to Ravens rookie cornerback Asa Jackson that he was practicing on an NFL football field. "I'm working toward getting in that mindset every day," he said of making the transition to the professional ranks. But Jackson, a fifth-round draft pick out of Cal Poly, showed up with the right attitude.
"It's been interesting," he said after the team's rookie minicamp. "It felt real good to get back out on the field and to be able to go through stuff especially with an NFL team and an NFL defense and the coaches and everything. It has been a little challenging mentally, just trying to get all the calls and make sure that I'm on point with everything. But it's been fun. Football is what I'm meant to do and I'm happy to be out here doing it."
Jackson, 22, was listed as both a cornerback and a return specialist on the rookie rosters handed out to media Sunday morning. Team officials have said that Jackson, who excelled as a kickoff and punt return at Cal Poly, will be in the competition to be a return specialist. Stamping it on the roster sheets reinforces the expectation. Cornerback Lardarius Webb, wide receiver David Reed and wide receiver Phillip Livas will also be in the mix.
At Cal Poly, Jackson established a school record by averaging 14.7 yards a punt return over his career (559 yards on 38 punt returns). At the time, it was the highest average among active Div. I-FCS players. He also averaged 25.1 yards on 15 career kickoff returns.
Jackson says he is ready to make an impact on special teams.
"That's going to be my starting point to get a spot on this team is definitely going through special teams," said Jackson, a Sacramento native. "I'm relishing that role. Something Coach Harbaugh said last night is that everyone on this team needs to take a job so if I need to take a job on special teams to get on this team and to be on the 53-man roster, I'm more than happy to do that and then try to work my way into the lineup as a corner."
Jackson is listed at 5-foot-10, but that appears to be a little generous. Still, he was a dominant cover corner at the FCS level; he picked off eight passes and broke up 40 passes during his college career. It was hard to get a good reason on Jackson at Sunday's practice because of spotty quarterback play in 11-on-11 drills, but I'm eager to see how Jackson fares once the veterans get integrated into offseason workouts later this month.
Jackson is looking forward to being around the veterans, too, particular Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis and free safety Ed Reed.
"Coming into the process, I said to myself, I really wanted to soak up all the teaching and all the game that they're going to be giving to everybody on the defense," Jackson said. "Who knows how much longer those two guys are going to be around? I'm real excited to be part of this defense. I know it's a ball-hawking defense. Obviously, the Ravens are the standard when it comes to defense in the NFL and I'm real excited to be a part of that."