BATON ROUGE, La. — If there’s one thing you can bank on with LSU cornerback Donte Jackson, it’s that he’s a rebel.
He’s a guy who decided where he went to high school because people told him it wasn’t going to work out. He’s a guy who ended up at LSU partially because people growing up told him he’d end up somewhere like Nicholls State or Southeastern. Now he’s got another decision to make, perhaps his biggest one. And you best believe he’s out to prove more people wrong.
A draft-eligible junior, Jackson hasn’t made up his mind yet about whether he’ll declare for the 2018 NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining. He said he’s going to wait until after the Citrus Bowl to work that out with his coaches and family. But that doesn’t mean Jackson hasn’t thought about his future.
And more important, it doesn’t mean other people haven’t thought about his future for him.
“Your phone don’t stop ringing,” Jackson said. “That’s the biggest thing that comes with this whole process. Your phone don’t stop ringing.”
Perhaps even more than teammates such as Derrius Guice and Arden Key, who are considered bona fide first-round picks, Jackson is fielding equal parts criticism and praise. One day he’ll have a fan tell him he’s overrated and needs to come back another year. The next day someone will tell him he’s a first-round pick and needs to declare to keep the ‘DBU’ tradition alive.
Mentally, Jackson seems to agree with the fans in the latter category. The junior requested a draft evaluation, which will come in the form of a grade from experts who advise underclassmen whether they should stay in college or declare early based on what round they should expect to be picked. Jackson hasn’t gotten his grade back yet, but he said he’s certain he’ll be a projected first-round pick.
If the evaluation advises that he returns to school, Jackson said he’ll do just that. He trusts the evaluators’ perspectives. But those aren’t the only perspectives he’s seeking.
Jackson said he’s sought out wisdom from former teammates Tre’Davious White, Jamal Adams and Jalen Mills, all of whom start in the NFL. The three could have left LSU a year early and would’ve been high draft picks. White and Mills stayed. Adams left. Now Jackson is in the same position, and hopes to build off the wisdom of those who came before him. Especially White.
“I talk to Tre’Davious White every other day,” Jackson said. “We’re going to talk today. He’s always just telling me, ‘God gave you a gift. Whichever decision you make, you’re still blessed.’ That’s what I look at. Everything is going to care of itself.”
Regardless of the decision he makes, Jackson said he thinks he knows where he stands. Fans might point out to him that he got beat on a couple of plays versus Chattanooga or Troy. But he’s also a guy who didn’t allow a completion versus Auburn and wasn’t thrown at against Alabama. Those are the games Jackson said he thinks pro scouts will be watching. Those are the plays he thinks will get him a first-round grade.
And those are the performances that’ll make this decision hard for him. But that’s why his mind isn’t made up.
“The door’s not shut for me,” Jackson said. “I’m still here. I’m still loving this place. Every day I walk in here, I’m still smiling, still joking. I’ve still got different handshakes with everybody on the team. I’m not in no rush to make any decisions. That’s how I keep it like that. I’m just enjoying my time here.”