NFL Draft: Q&A with Notre Dame Defensive Back Bennett Jackson


Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson (2) runs for a touchdown after intercepting a pass intended for Purdue Boilermakers wide receiver Shane Mikeskey (87). Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2014 NFL Draft only a few months away, we reached out to some of the draft prospects we believe the Green Bay Packers could target in May.

We’ve already heard from talented defensive players, like Stanford’s Ed Reynolds and Louisville’s Preston Brown, but today, we hear from highly regarded Notre Dame defensive back, Bennett Jackson.

Jackson started all 26 games the past two seasons at cornerback for the Fighting Irish, totaling 13 pass breakups and six interceptions in that time. Jackson was also named defensive captain as a senior in 2013, demonstrating the leadership qualities he brings to the secondary.

The New Jersey native is a tough, physical defensive back who can play on the outside or at nickel, and at 6-foot and 195 pounds, he could even try his hand at safety. Jackson is a versatile defensive back who also brings a plethora of special teams experience to the table.

As a freshman in 2010, Jackson made his mark on the team as a kick returner, averaging 22.5 yards on 29 returns. Jackson can also play as a gunner or on kickoff coverage for whatever team drafts him this spring.

As a football player, Jackson gives teams options and shouldn’t have a problem finding his way on the field on Sundays. And as a defensive back, Jackson offers NFL teams versatility and the grittiness to stick with big, physical receivers downfield.

Jackson has all the makings of being a real steal in the draft come May. A team like the Packers could benefit from drafting the Notre Dame prospect and finding a spot for him on their team.

To learn more about Jackson, I reached out to him and here is what he had to say about his game and possibly playing for Green Bay.

Q. First, tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, and what led you to play for Notre Dame?

BJ: I am from New Jersey. I grew up in a small town called Hazlet with my mother, sister, and grandmother. My father got me into playing football at a young age through a Pop Warner program, where I fell in love with the game.

I chose to attend the University of Notre Dame because it was a great opportunity for me to better myself in life. I thought there was no way I could make a wrong choice in choosing Notre Dame. To me, Notre Dame has the best of both worlds, being football and academics. I thought of it as a perfect opportunity.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson (2) celebrates after a fumble recovery against the Michigan Wolverines. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Q. You faced a lot of great receivers as a defensive back for the Fighting Irish. In your experience, who was the most challenging receiver you ever covered, and what did you do to keep him from impacting the game?

BJ: Marqise Lee was probably one of the best receivers I faced. In my mind the only person that can beat me is myself. With an explosive wide receiver like Lee I kept him in front of me at all times and never gave up the deep ball. When a receiver catches those short routes, it allows the defense to play another down.

Q. You participated in the East-West Shrine game down in Florida. What was that week like for you, and what were you able to show scouts about your game?

BJ: The East-West Shrine game was an outstanding opportunity to meet and talk with scouts as well as give back to the community and spend time with the children at the Shriners Hospital. But to me personally, I felt we didn’t really get a chance to get after one another and really compete. Besides that, I felt scouts got to see me again in person running around and then getting to know me more personally through conversations and meetings.

Q. What are your strengths as a defensive back? 

BJ: I am a highly competitive player who doesn’t take losing well. I have great size and feet. I can run with any wide receiver in the country. I can tackle, high point the ball, and play at the nickel position. As a football player in general I have great character and respect for my teammates.

Southern California Trojans receiver Marqise Lee (9) is defended by Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson (2). Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Q. In your opinion, what is the most underrated part of your game?

BJ: Every part of it! I am newer to the position than most other cornerbacks in the draft, and my technique at times is not as crisp as it ought to be. But I am a work in progress. I am continually working to improve my game and know that my best days are ahead of me.

Q. What do the next two months look like for you leading up to the draft in May? Is there a part of your game you’ll be really focusing on improving?

BJ: Right now, I am focusing on getting stronger physically and mentally and running faster. Those are the two main components I will be working on to my pro day. Then afterwards, I will focus a lot more on position-specific work, technique, and my knowledge of every position on defense so that I can progress my game.

Q. The Packers may be looking to add more defensive back talent this spring. How would you feel about playing for Green Bay, and what could you bring to their secondary?

BJ: I would love to be given an opportunity to play for a program like the Green Bay Packers. I would add to the swagger Green Bay already has on defense and prove to be a reliable cover corner that plays with great energy and passion.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson (2). Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Q. What will be your mindset after the draft when you join your new team, begin your career in the NFL, and try to carve out a roster spot for yourself?

BJ: I have been doubted my whole life. My mindset is to be the best at whatever I do. Therefore, I will work towards being the best cornerback and player at whichever position I am playing in the game. I will work to be the best. Not just on the team, but throughout the entire league. And that is my mindset!

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a defensive back?

BJ: Defensive back is one of the most challenging positions on the field. One false move can create such a disaster that it forces us to be on our game and continually work on perfecting our craft on a daily basis.

I love the fact that my job is to stop someone from doing what they want to do and hitting them until they don’t want to play anymore. Forcing someone to give up and show defeat is the best feeling for me as a defensive back.

Q. Tell us a little bit more about yourself. When you’re away from football, what do you like to do in your free time? 

BJ: I don’t do much. I like to go see movies. I’m a movie guy. I like the simple things in life like hanging out with a few friends and kicking back for a few hours.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like Packers fans to know about you?

BJ: I live for this game! Everything about it.

Career college stats

• 2013 – 64 tackles, 5 TFL, sack, 3 PBUs, FF, 2 INT, and INT return for TD

• 2012 – 65 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 4 PBUs, and 4 INT

• 2011 – 18 tackles 

• 2010 – 11 tackles and 29 kick returns for a 22.24 average

Film on Bennett Jackson

Bennett Jackson Highlights 2012

Bennett Jackson against Purdue (2012): 2 tackles and 2 INT

Bennett Jackson against Arizona State (2013): 4 tackles, Pass Breakup, and a Forced Fumble

Watch more film on Bennett Jackson and other draft prospects at