Backing bold talk in brash fashion

Ravens: Long-haired Brad Jackson brings a brazen attitude to his play on kickoff coverage and protection.

Super Bowl XXXV

Ravens vs. Giants

January 27, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - Brad Jackson likes to let it all hang out.

For instance, the second-year linebacker with the Ravens didn't care about tact three weeks ago, when he approached Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher while waiting for a kickoff.

"I told Coach, you might as well call it off - go ahead and let us go to the Super Bowl," said Jackson, who remembers Fisher telling him he had to earn it.

He told his former coach that's what the Ravens came to do and, "I'll see you after we win the game."

Just as it didn't matter the Ravens were trailing the Titans at the time, it didn't matter to Jackson this week when he cut out a picture of New York Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn in the morning paper - headlined "Success Story" - and stuck his head through it, speculating on what his chances might be to be the Super Bowl MVP.

We are talking about the guy who temporarily stepped into Ray Lewis' shoes at middle linebacker when the All-Pro was on trial for murder.

"I was running the show, having a lot of fun, too," Jackson said with a laugh. "It was my time to show the organization what I can do when put in the starting role."

Here's a man who seems to do bold better than anything, from his antics, to his hair, to his play on the Ravens' special teams, where he had a career-high 16 tackles in 10 games this season, along with two fumble recoveries.

His affinity for all things exuberant extends to football, having chosen it over basketball after playing both sports at the University of Cincinnati.

"Where are you going to have fans who are out screaming and yelling in the snow, in the cold, taking days off of work," Jackson said, adding the black-and-white, winner-take-all nature of the Super Bowl beats the ambiguity of most pro sports championships. "The best thing is you've got one chance at a championship. There is no seven-game series. It's one game, one day, and everybody's watching."

His road to this grand stage began late. While growing up in Anaheim, Calif., and then Akron, Ohio, he played soccer and basketball, but not football because his mother, Sherry, thought he might get hurt.

He began playing football as a high school sophomore. Eventually, he turned down Big Ten schools for lowly Cincinnati because the program would let him try playing basketball for Bob Huggins.

Though he enjoyed basketball, he went from a receiver to a linebacker who finished third on the career tackles list in football and left the basketball team in the middle of his senior season to prepare for the NFL draft. The Dolphins made him a third-round pick in 1998, and he thought he had a bright career in Miami.

But, the Dolphins cut Jackson. Tennessee picked him up on waivers, leading to a brief, but disappointing, experience before he came to Baltimore as a member of practice squad.

After a brief rut coming from the letdown of not being a regular player, Jackson established himself as a strong special teams presence by recording 13 tackles in the 1999 season.

He has also established himself as a character, posing as Rod Woodson during media day at the Super Bowl, and cracking, "Everybody doesn't have to go over to Ray, I'll be happy to answer questions."

Before the season, Jackson let his hair grow - no time to cut it. Now, it sprouts atop his Super Bowl sun visor to give an effect not unlike a bundle of wheat.

His fiancee, Amy Perez, made him comb it for Christmas holiday family photographs. Otherwise, his children - Kali, Brad Jr. and Ariella - have too much fun playing with it to justify a trip to the barber, and the hair has also taken on a Sampson-like quality.

"With us making the Super Bowl, all the secretaries say, `We can't cut it,' " he said. "It's our strength now."

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