This story originally appeared in the February 8 edition of Hawk Mail. To subscribe to Hawk Mail, click here.
With his playing days behind him, Darrell Jackson has more time to focus on the other things life has to offer. One of those things is father time.
In sunny Orlando, Florida, the former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver spent the week watching his son, Jalen, as his team participated in the USA FLAG Championships at the NFL Pro Bowl. This time in Jackson's life where he can watch his son play the game he himself loved has been a long time coming.
"I knew it would come and I had been waiting for it, and now I'm embracing it more and more every day," Jackson said. "When I was a young fella I used to maybe go to the sports bar with my friends when I could be at home playing the SEGA Genesis with my son. Now those roles are reversed and I put the SEGA Genesis away, helping him out with homework and then watching the Seattle Seahawks dominate."
Jalen plays wide receiver just like his father did along with cornerback and still watches his father's highlights from his tenure with the Seahawks. Jackson is one of Seattle's most-accomplished wide outs in franchise history as he put up 441 receptions, 6,445 receiving yards and 47 touchdowns in seven seasons.
Jackson not only watched his son play in Orlando, but he also opened up in a one-on-one interview about his time in Seattle, his former quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck — who called the Pro Bowl game as an analyst — and more. Here's part of the conversation I had with him:
How has this experience in Orlando been for you?
Jackson: "It's been very, very, very different. If I was a little kid and I had all of this when I was growing up, I think I would've been a better football player. I would've had more enthusiasm for the game and things like this, but it's a wonderful experience to see all of the young talent around the country, seeing the young stars in the making, seeing guys compete play in and play out, game in and game out."
What's it been like watching your son play here?
Jackson: "Nerve-racking. Of course, being a parent, you want your kids to go out and perform and do his thing and play at a high level and compete every play. He's been doing that and I try to stay out of his way by not saying anything and staying back so he doesn't see me get nervous and things like that. But he's doing pretty well, he's got a couple picks, one he took to the house."
Do you prefer he play wide receiver over cornerback?
Jackson: "I asked him that same question because I'm an offensive guy, but he likes to hit. He likes that side of the ball. Growing up, I keep telling him he's not going to know what he's going to play so just play it all and do his best, but I think he's going to end up being a defensive back some type of way."
What was unique about your bond with Hasselbeck in Seattle?
Jackson:"Our bond took a while to form. In front of me (on the depth chart), I had Koren Robinson — our first-round pick and they wanted him to be the guy so I had to play the second fiddle until he trusted me and threw me more passes. But we formed a bond of trust, accountability, doing what you say and always being ready. It's very special to me now that I look back and see the type of things that we were able to conquer and achieve."
What do remember most about your time in Seattle?
Jackson:"The bond that I had with a lot of the players. The chemistry that we formed day in and day out, competing with each other, pushing each other and all of the goals that we set that we tried to achieve — which we achieved a lot of. We just missed out on that Super Bowl. I came into the league 20 years old and I came in with a lot of guys from around the country and we all grew together. That's why everybody in sports calls each other brothers and things like that. We really formed a lifetime bond just with the dedication of football."
Was the 2005 season (the appearance in Super Bowl XL) the one that stands out to you the most in your career?
Jackson: "Unfortunately for me, some of that year I was hurt, but that was a great year. It really put Seattle and the Pacific Northwest on the map. We were kind of forgotten and it was hard for us to get publicity on TV and the radio or whatever the case may be. It was a build up from the time Mike Holmgren got there and all of the old former players who set the tone — Kenny Easley, Curt Warner, Steve Largent, all those guys. When Mike Holmgren got there he changed the culture a little bit and I was a young pup and he told us how to really play and win and we kind of set the tone to where they're at right now."
What do you notice that's different about football now compared to when you played?
Jackson: "They don't hit as much and they don't practice as much. It's seems like everybody has a celebration for a three-yard catch (laughs). The players are really using the platform that they have right now to be different. The players are being recognized more, they're having more fun, they're more loose. Even with the dress code —shirts hanging out, socks low, all these type of things. They're out there enjoying themselves and I like to see that."
Sixty-six teams from across the country, including four in the Seahawks' region, compete in NFL FLAG Championships in Orlando, Florida as part of the NFL's weeklong celebration of football at all levels during the 2018 Pro Bowl.