Going deep with No. 95

Posted Oct 10, 2009

Seahawks defensive end Lawrence Jackson does his best to separate his professional life from his personal life, and find a balance between the two.

This is a deep story about Lawrence Jackson, and it begins by splitting the subject.

“There’s No. 95, and then there’s Lawrence Jackson,” the Seahawks’ second-year defensive end said.

Extensive research, at great cost to, has determined that No. 95 and Lawrence Jackson really are the same entity. It’s just that Jackson strives to keep his professional life and his personal life as separate as possible – even during the season, when the overlap is unavoidable.

Sunday, it will be No. 95 that needs to step up when the Seahawks face the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qwest Field. Jackson has been elevated to the starting lineup at left end, because he has accepted the challenge issued by coach Jim Mora, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and line coach Dan Quinn.

“We challenged him, and it started when we first got here,” said Bradley, who was hired in January. “The challenge was made in front of the whole defense, and he accepted it. To his credit. We said we need to see it game in and game out, and he’s put a couple good games together.”

Jackson started 14 games last season, after being the team’s first-round draft choice. But it takes a deeper look to unearth the whole story. He started the first five games on the right side, then lost the job to incumbent Darryl Tapp. But when left end Patrick Kerney went out with a shoulder injury that required season-ended surgery, Jackson started the final nine games because Tapp moved over to replace Kerney.

Jackson finished the season with two sacks, both in a Week 2 win game against the 49ers at Qwest Field.

He played injured, and out of position. In addition to lining up at right end, Jackson would slide to tackle in the nickel defense. It was expecting too much, and he didn’t meet those expectations.

That’s where the self-imposed separation between No. 95 and Lawrence Jackson helped the rookie maintain his balance – and sanity.

“I can’t get mad if the coach is yelling at me because I did something wrong,” he said. “He’s not attacking Lawrence, he’s attacking No. 95. That’s how you have to be in this business.

“That was always my attitude playing sports, even throughout high school. But at this level it’s different. It’s no longer an after-school activity. It’s no longer something that you have to do to get your education. This is my job. So you have to take that attitude into it, knowing this is no guarantee. I can get fired tomorrow. So I have to do whatever I have to do to make sure I’m ready to do the job that they expect me to do.

“And in that, that makes me a better teammate.”

Mora helped Jackson through his rookie-season growing pains.

“I would go talk to him a couple times a week,” Jackson said of Mora, who was the secondary coach last year. “The one thing that I won’t ever forget, he understands that I’m a thinking person. So he said, ‘Lawrence, do whatever you have to do to get all your thinking done during the week. Then, on Sunday, there’s no more thinking. Just play.’

“That speech pays dividends in this profession. Because when you think, you lose a step. You’ve just got to go and react.”    

While it’s imperative that Lawrence Jackson allows No. 95 to come out inside the white lines, he has interests outside the white lines. He pursues writing (poetry and a journal), photography (ideally wildlife) and reading.

Rather than take the easy way out in trying to keep up with current events, he opts for the essay – by subscribing to Time magazine. He frequently revisits “Zen and the Art of Archery,” a book that helps him be a better person off the field and player on the field.

“The concept of the book is to transcend your technique so that your art form becomes an artless art form,” Jackson said. “Basically, you have to be one with yourself so you don’t take yourself out of opportunities by thinking.

“This is stuff I’ve always been into. You get caught up in football and you lose it, then you have to go pick it up to remind yourself that you’re still a person.”

Deep stuff, indeed.

“I try to keep in touch with what’s going on, not just bury myself completely in football,” said Jackson, who sees himself getting involved in sports psychology when No. 95’s career is over. “Though there’s a time and place for everything.

“This is a career, so you work the amount of hours you feel you need to be comfortable in your preparation. But there’s also the other side of it where I’m not No. 95 anymore, I’m Lawrence Jackson. And in those times when I’m Lawrence Jackson, I have to continue to develop as a person. Because you can’t go from A to F when football is over. You go from J to K.”

But doesn’t No. 95 overpower Lawrence Jackson at this time of year because of the demands during the season?

“When I’m here, it overpowers Lawrence Jackson,” he said. “I feel like when I’m here, I’m No. 95. To separate both of them, it puts perspective to both things.”

More deep stuff. But the depth that interests the coaches is No. 95’s ability to get penetration into the opposition’s backfield. He leads the team – and is tied for third in the NFC – with three sacks.

“Just being able to go through second, third, fourth progressions pre-snap,” Jackson said when asked the biggest difference between No. 95 this season and during his rookie season. “It’s no longer about, it’s this play, this is what I’ve got to do. Now it’s, this is what I see, this is what we prepared for and then it allows me to take it further to the point of, ‘OK, it’s a good chance this is going to happen.’ ”

Whatever works, especially as long as what happens involves No. 95 and Lawrence Jackson converging at the quarterback.