By Dale Lolley
Posted Jul 4, 2007
Two offseasons have passed since the departure of return man extraordinaire Antwaan Randle El and the Steelers are still looking for his replacement. Enter Chris Jackson from D-III Millsaps, a rookie free agent hoping his return skills land him an NFL job.
hopes his latest trip to Pittsburgh works out better than his first one.
Jackson, a wide receiver from Millsaps College, led the Majors into the NCAA Division III playoffs last season for the first time since 1975. Their destination? Carnegie University in Pittsburgh.
“Yeah, that didn’t work out too well,” said Jackson of the Majors’ 21-0 loss. “I don’t know if we were just happy to be there or what. But hopefully, this trip to Pittsburgh works out better.”
The Majors’ qualified for the playoffs with a 34-12 victory over No. 14 Trinity (Texas) the week before, a win that clinched the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship. And it was Jackson who pretty much single-handedly delivered the victory for the Majors.
The 6-2, 205-pound Jackson returned three punt returns for 150 yards – two of which went for touchdowns – one kick return for 40 yards and hauled in five catches for 26 yards.
“That was huge because Trinity was like our biggest rival,” said Jackson, who is now trying to earn a roster spot with the Pittsburgh Steelers
as an undrafted rookie. “It was just one of those games where everything went right.”
It was one of the crowning moments for Jackson in what turned out to be an outstanding senior season. He was the first player in Millsaps history to return two punts for a touchdown in a single-game and in a season. He also led the SCAC in receptions (59), yards (661), touchdowns (9) and kick return average (22.7). He also averaged 17.3 yards per punt return.
It is his return ability that got him noticed by the Steelers.
“They’re giving me a chance to return punts right now,” said Jackson. “Hopefully, I’ll get a shot at kickoffs too. But I know that I really have to show them something as a return guy. A guy in my position, all you can do is try to make the most of your shot.”
Jackson could get a little more of a look than most other rookies because of his return ability. The Steelers used first-round pick Santonio Holmes
as their primary punt return man last season, but with Holmes slated to start at wide receiver opposite Hines Ward
, the team may be looking to limit his special teams play.
And with Willie Reid
having missed most of his rookie season and the team’s offseason workouts with foot problems, the door may be open for Jackson.
“I hope so,” he said. “I’m going to give it my best shot. We’ll see if that’s good enough.”