This edition of the Bearcat Blog countdown is a little different. It’s about a two sport athlete. It’s about a Bearcat Hall of Famer. Most importantly, that player sat down and talked with me about his Bearcat career. That great person is Brad Jackson.
Brad Jackson was a great player who came to Cincinnati at the absolute best time for someone of his talent to come to Cincinnati. Jackson came to Cincinnati during the rise of Rick Minter’s amazing coaching staff, led by Rex Ryan. Brad Jackson took to that like a duck to water.
Brad Jackson was a tackling machine. Especially in his senior season of 1997. He had 168 of them. 93 of those were solo tackles. The 168 tackles is second all time at UC. The solo tackles rank 3rd. Jackson had 15 or more tackles in 6 games that year. The highlight was a 23 tackle performance against Boston College. That’s also the second highest total in Cincinnati history. He left Cincinnati in the top 3 in solo tackles, the top 4 in assisted tackles, and the top 10 in tackles for loss and sacks. Jackson was a first team All-Conference USA selection in 1995 and 1997. In 1996, he was a second team selection. Jackson was the star of the Bearcats team that broke the long streak of making a bowl game. He had 2 INTs in the bowl game, including one to ice the victory.
One of the most incredible stories about Jackson comes from the bowl week. The Bearcats basketball team was a little short on depth. So Brad Jackson played on the basketball team. Oh, and he played at a 6-2 power forward. He scored his first points on his first shot in the Arizona State blowout disaster. He had 1 point the next game. He had 2 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 rebound, 1 steal the following games. Brad played a career high 26 minutes against Eastern Kentucky. He scored 3 points with 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block. While preparing for the Humanitarian Bowl, Jackson was needed for the basketball game against UMass in Cleveland. He flew from Idaho to Cleveland, played 13 minutes of a big Bearcats upset, and then flew back to Idaho for the game the next day. The basketball game was on the 27th, the football game on the 29. Just an incredible story.
Jackson played 2 more games as a Bearcat. He scored 4 points with 3 assists against Winthrop. He played 1 minute the next game. After that, he concentrated on working out of the NFL. That was a smart move because he was a 3rd round draft pick. He played 6 NFL seasons, including for the 2000 Ravens.
The stage seems properly set. My questions are in bold. Take it away, Scott and Brad.
You had a great career as a Bearcat, capped off by a 168 tackle senior season. You had 15 or more tackles 6 times that year, including 23 in a win over BC. What was your secret to being a tackling machine?
Brad Jackson: The secret to being involved in so many tackles came from a couple different things. One, I had great teammates that were unselfish and played their part and did their job in the defense sacrificing themselves making plays in order for the 46 defense, lead by current Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan, to be successful. The other part was I wanted and was driven to make every play and tackle I could. I wanted to be in on every play possible and worked in practice and in the film room during the week to know and have a better idea of what was going to happen on Saturday during the games.
What do you think makes a great defensive player?
To be a great defensive player, one has to play with an swagger and attitude, be unselfish, tough, physical and athletic.
Do you have any individual moments or accomplisments that stand out from your 4 years as a Bearcat?
I have many many moments in my career that stand out, from me forcing the game winning fumble vs Miami Oh in Nippert Stadium in double overtime (the 1st overtime game in NCAAs after the rule change), the game where we beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg 16-0 in a monsoon and I was Sports Illustrated Defensive Player of the Week, but to proudest would be helping and being an intricate part of the 1997 Bearcat Football team that put the program back on track by going to our 1st bowl (AND WINNING) in almost 50 years. That started so many things from recruits starting to look at UC, to alumni donating money to expand the athletic facilities and propel us from Conference USA to the Big East. That was a program changer! And it helped I had 15 tackles, 2 Int, forced and recovered fumble, all while playing basketball at the same time for Coach Bob Huggins and flying back and forth all over the country.
The 97 team was the first team to get to a bowl game in 47 years, the longest drought in the NCAA at that time. How sweet did it feel to reach the post-season and do something no Bearcat team had done in decades, especially in your senior season?
Reaching the bowl game after 47 years was like a monkey being ripped off our backs. It was an amazing feeling because it was something that hadn’t been done and to see and meet so many proud, older Bearcats who were so happy and had tears and to people that travelled to watch the game made the festivities, the game and accomplishment so much sweeter.
Do you have any memories of the Humanitarian Bowl itself? Besides your game clinching interception?
My memories of the a Humanitarian Bowl, were wonderful from us flying as a team out to Boise, Idaho, to me having to leave to fly back to Ohio to play basketball, to flying back to Idaho, sleeping and missing the day before walk through, and then finishing off my career with a perfect game, of 15 tackles, 2 Int, forced fumble, recovered fumble, and a knockout hit on one of Utah State’s WR crossing the middle and me getting up and shooting a jump shoot in the air to let my basketball teammates know I was thinking about them as well.
You played at UC during the time when Rex Ryan was the defensive coordinator. Do you feel responsible for all his subsequent success?
I am happy to have been a student of not only Rex Ryan but the Old Man, Buddy Ryan. He would come of from the farm in Kentucky and coach us up from the stands or yell at me if I messed up, I always remembering him saying “don’t screw up my defense, this was the greatest defense in NFL history (referring to his 1985 Bears Super Bowl Defense). But we were very fortunate that Coach Minter hired Rex Ryan because he established the swagger and attitude that still carries on today and made it an honor and proud to not only be a Bearcat but to play defense for the Bearcats was an privilege and if you didn’t do it the right way, you were going to get coached to do it the right way or you wouldn’t be on the “dark side” of the ball as we called it.
Every former player has a story or two about their coach. Do you have any good Rick Minter stories?
I have so many good stories about Coach Minter. NONE can be published! Coach was very very tough and a disciplinarian. But what he instilled were LIFE values. Things that I thought we harsh or crazy at the time, helped me become a better man, father, and fulfill my goals of setting records at school, taking the program to a bowl game, and playing in the NFL. Things that I learned from Coach Minter I find myself saying to my kids, teams I coach and have helped me be mentally tougher as well. So I respect, admire and love everything Coach Minter did to make me better. And let’s not forget he did turn a bunch of knuckleheads into a strong dominant team that helped turn the program around all while staying for almost a decade when he could have bolted to better jobs like so many previous Bearcat coaches have done.
Some people know that you played on the 97-98 basketball team as well as the football team. You didn’t just play, you played significant minutes, as high as 26, at some points. What made you decide to join the team?
I always thought I was abetted basketball player and the idea of me joining the hoop team cameo during my recruitment process as I played on a very good basketball program, so my senior year in high school when I was getting recruited, I wanted to do both and Coach Huggs was on board, but then Coach Murphy left along with his staff, coach Minter got hired and nixed that for a couple years, so I would just hang or practice with the team without Coach Minter knowing it. Hahaha
The best story of that season was when you flew from bowl practice in Utah to Cleveland to play in a game against UMass. You played 13 minutes in that game as UC pulled the upset. Can you talk a little about how much of that experience you remember?
Playing hoops and preparing for the Humanitarian Bowl was so exciting, Sports Illustrated followed the story which was cool, but the biggest thing I remember was flying back to Cleveland in a storm and barely landing at Burke Lakefront Airport and the oxygen mask dropping and we all thought were going to crash and landed hard enough I though we did. They then rushed me to arena where we upset a very good UMass team with like 6 or 7 players because of the harsh NCAA suspensions for guys unknowingly using office phones to call home to speak with our parents who we missed. I remember us coming back to tie the game under a minute to play and then, winning in overtime, jumping back on a plane and flying to Cincy from Cleveland for the night on 5 hours sleep to fly back to Boise to rejoin my football team the day before the Bowl game. Best week of my life.
In 2009, you were named to the Bearcats Hall of Fame. How big of an honor was that? Besides very big, hah.
I still am in awe and honored to be in the James Kelly Hall of Fame. I am so blessed and lucky and everyday though I have many accomplishments and achievements me being in the University of Cincinnati Hall of Fame is my GREATEST of my life. I am honored to be enshrined with so many GREAT Bearcat Legends! Oscar Robertson may be the most famous Bearcat of All Time, but Mr Jim Kelly was and will ALWAYS be THE GREATEST Bearcat of ALL TIME!!!
You went on to the NFL and played with the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. 2 questions about that. 1, where is your ring? 2, are there any small memories from that day that didn’t have to do with the game action that stand out?
My ring is in the bank vault. And the memories that was one of the greatest was again a team no one expected to do anything and the defensive just like the Bearcat defense of 1997, became the greatest in NFL history and led us to a championship.
Can you tell the people a little about what you are doing now? How could fans get in touch with you?
I am doing well in retirement. Coaching the future Bearcat greats, my 13 year old son, Brad Jr, who is dominate in baseball and plays hoop very well, and my 12 year old daughter Ariella who is dominate in girls fast pitch travel softball. My oldest daughter Kali is extremely intelligent academically gifted and also plays softball but she has aspirations of doing things to help the world. I help coach the Ravens on occasion, but mostly am doing televisions and radio as an NFL and college analyst for Comcast SportsNet and NBC Sports Group. Fans can follow me there or on twitter @BJack50
I hope all is well and I’m thankful for everything the University of Cincinnati has enabled a skinny little kid to grow up become an Hall of Famer, Bowl Champion and World Champion.
Go Red, Go Black, Go BEARCATS!!!
I probably didn’t have to keep the signature at the end, but I did anyway. A special thanks to Brad Jackson. He went above and beyond, which is outstanding. He’s a great person to talk to on twitter, so I suggest you do it. Thanks again to Brad, and thanks to you for reading.