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The Tennessee Titans are no strangers to finding talent in their own backyard. They only had to look 180 miles to the east for sixth-round pick and defensive back, Theo Jackson.
The Tennessee Volunteers defensive back played high school ball at Overton High School in The Music City. He was a three-star recruit with other offers, including from LSU and Louisville, but chose to remain in-state and played in 11 games as a true freshman, becoming a reliable backup and contributor on special teams.
“I’m not going to lie to you: I’m going through so many emotions right now,” Jackson said to reporters after being drafted by the Titans. “But it’s the best feeling. To grow up in Nashville, go to school at Tennessee and then come back home for pro ball. I can’t even think of the words to even say right now. I’m just so excited and I’m so eager to get to work.”
The 6-foot-2, 203-pound defensive back worked his way into a starting role for the Vols in 2019, finishing fourth on the team with 53 tackles during the season.
With a good combination of size and speed, Jackson was utilized in a lot of different ways in Knoxville, and that versatility is something the Titans were definitely interested in when they drafted him at No. 204 overall.
“They [the Titans] loved my versatility,” he said. “I can play safety, play the dime, or play some slot, but it’s really how they want to place me at.”
As a fifth-year senior, Jackson saw his biggest uptick in production from the previous season.
He registered 78 total tackles, including nine tackles for loss, and a career-best 11 passes defended. Jackson also tallied an interception in his final game at Neyland Stadium, returning it 55 yards for a score on just the fifth play from scrimmage.
The leader of the Vols’ defensive secondary, he was selected by the SEC coaches to the All-SEC Second-Team.
Jackson’s final year on campus was Josh Heupel’s first as head coach in Knoxville. Jackson credits the coaching staff’s defensive scheme change for playing a role in his breakout campaign.
“I think it was just the scheme change. It allowed me to be more free, and then our playbook was a little bit easier, so I could focus on what call I had to make and I can focus on what the offense could be doing,” Jackson explained. “I watched a lot of film, so when I guessed, I guessed right most of the time.”
Going from Overton High School, to the University of Tennessee, to the NFL, it was difficult for Jackson to envision what the end product looked like. At first, he focused on playing collegiate ball before shifting his attention to which team might select him in the 2022 NFL draft.
Most kids dream of playing for their favorite team growing up, and that’s exactly how it’s played out for Jackson.
“I was envisioning myself playing with the Titans. Just having that vision come true…I still can’t even put together the words of what I’m feeling about it,” Jackson said.
The newest Titans defensive back will likely have an opportunity to carve out a role on special teams this season, as well as a backup role in the secondary.