Eddie Jackson reveals how O.J. Howard and Texas A&M turned him into a punt returner

Tyler Waldrep

Alabama safety Eddie Jackson knelt alone in the end zone for just a moment before his teammates caught up with him to celebrate. He had just returned his first punt, since his high school days, back 85 yards for a touchdown against Ole Miss on Sept.17.

When special teams coach Burton Burns decided to give Jackson his shot against the Rebels, he had a message for him.

“He was like, ‘Come on now Eddie, your boy’s been calling me all summer.’ It was kind of cool,” Jackson said.

Burns was referring to tight end O.J. Howard who had called the special teams coach with the idea over the offseason.

Howard’s faith in his teammate paid off, and Jackson said the tight end’s response to his touchdown was as simple as I told you so.

“I was just waiting on my opportunity and I got a shot,” Jackson said. “I really had to thank O.J., because he was the one who really pushed coach Burns this offseason and told him to put me back there and give me a chance.”

It is a chance Jackson has certainly taken advantage of. On Saturday Jackson scored again as a punt returner when he took one back 79 yards against the Tennessee Volunteers. He now has two touchdowns in only nine returns.

Jackson might not have never gotten the chance if Howard hadn’t recommended him, but he also couldn’t have done it without Saturday’s opponent, No. 6 Texas A&M.

Last season Jackson intercepted the Aggies twice in Alabama’s 41-23 victory. It was what the safety did when he returned one of his interceptions 93 yards for a touchdown that got the tight end’s attention.

“It was crazy,” Jackson said. “[Howard] he called me, I guess, when one of our old games was on, and he just called me and he ’s like, ‘Man. I’m watching the [Texas A&M] game. You need to tell them to put you on punt return.’”

Including Jackson’s 55-yard pick-six against Western Kentucky, the safety has managed to find the end zone three times this season with only 10 opportunities with the ball. Meanwhile the guy who recommended him for the job, Howard, only has one touchdown this season after 14 receptions.

Jackson would like to see Howard’s number go up in the second half of the season.

“Man, I’ve been trying to get him the ball. That’s OJ, man,” Jackson said. “Do you see the things he can do when he matches up against linebackers? The things he does against us at practice, it’s just crazy man. They’ve got to feed him sooner or later.”