INDIANAPOLIS — Running back Justin Jackson has a lot to be proud of after four seasons at Northwestern.
He’s the Wildcats’ all-time leading rusher with 5,440 yards. He’s the ninth player in NCAA history to have four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. And he finished behind only Ron Dayne (5,589) and Archie Griffin (7,125) in rushing yards in Big Ten history.
But Jackson didn’t mention any of those individual accolades when he spoke at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“[It’s] being consistently available for my team,” said Jackson, who helped the Wildcats appear in three consecutive bowls, including wins in the Music City Bowl in 2017 and the Pinstripe Bowl in 2016. “Showing up in big moments, when my team needs me the most, that’s something I always pride myself on. Just being present.
“[I’m] really proud that I didn’t miss any games in college. That’s really tough as a running back.”
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Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (6-0, 233 pounds) cemented his status as one of the top picks with a freakish performance at the combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, completed 29 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press and had a vertical jump of 41 inches.
But Jackson (5-11, 193) shouldn’t be completely overshadowed. Evaluators might consider him a Day 3 selection at best, but his durability is an attribute to consider. He doesn’t have any off-the-field issues, and he also is a strong candidate for special teams.
Jackson improved his draft stock by running the 40 in 4.50 seconds Friday. He completed the three-cone drill in 6.81 seconds, the second-best mark among backs who participated. His vertical jump of 38½ inches also was better than expected.
“It’s an incredible honor to be among the best running backs in this year’s draft class,” said Jackson, who attended Glenbard North. “I’m getting to know them, competing against and with them. [It’s] definitely an honor to be here, an honor to represent Northwestern, to go out here and compete.”
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