Jets rookie CB Lamar Jackson quickly turned the page like a seasoned veteran.
Jackson looked at his reflection in the mirror after his name wasn't called in the NFL Draft knowing he had the talent to be selected. Then he put his feelings in the rearview mirror when he signed with the Jets on May 6.
"Of course it motivated me a little more, but I had to think of what's next," he said. "How am I going to move from this? Am I going to let this define me or am I going to show everybody what I can actually do? I never let that moment define me because deep down inside I knew any day of the week, I'm a draftable talent. I knew I had everything it took to succeed in this league. I'm just thankful for the opportunity with the Jets."
He added: "I'm so past April. I'll never get over the fact I went undrafted, but I have so much football in front of me, I just want to make everybody forget how I got here and just see what I can do in this league."
Jackson (6-2, 208) was a productive player at Nebraska, where he had 123 tackles, 6 TFLs, 27 PDs and 5 INTs in 49 games (36 starts). Less than five months from when he signed with the Jets, Jackson was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster against the Broncos. He was anticipating a role on special teams but had to quickly adjust like he did after the draft. He was thrown into the defense 11 plays into the game when starting CB Bless Austin left because of a calf injury and Jackson finished with 2 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 PD in 59 snaps (84%). He also took 13 plays on special teams.
"Every day is a job interview and you have to come to work," he said. "If you can take that mindset and can come to work every day, stay positive and prepare, when the moment comes, you're going to be all right. I'm a living testament of that. I didn't get a whole bunch of reps leading up to that Thursday night game but look what happened. I played three quarters and I graded out positive. That's a win on my part when it comes to preparation and coaching and everything like that. I'm just thankful for the moment. All I can say is stay ready so you don't have to get ready.
"It starts Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, your preparation days. Throughout the week, you take scout team reps and stuff like that, sometimes you don't feel like you're engaged as you should be. You have a little more wiggle room to let your mind wander and stuff like that, but you have to correct your mindset and your attitude when it comes to going to work. Even if you're not getting reps, you have to be locked in. Even if you're not the ones coaches are talking to, you have to learn from the other person's mistake. You have to be a pro and that's a big aspect I continue to remind myself."
Jets Head Coach Adam Gase said he was impressed with Jackson's play, especially without the benefit of preseason games.
"I didn't think it was too big for him," he said. "He was excited to be out there, he was excited with the opportunity. I think he did a lot of things really well. When you notice him, we had some missed tackles and he was cleaning some things up. So, to see him go out there and stick his face in the fire and wasn't afraid of anything. He played aggressive."
If Jackson is called up from the practice squad for this week's game, he could line up against a pair of NFL greats in Cardinals WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald.
"As a DB, these are the games you honestly live for when you get to go up against guys who are certified at their position and legends in this game," he said. "Especially as a younger DB, it's a surreal moment. You have to go out there and take it to them. You can't sit there and shy away. You have to respect every opponent. This is the National Football League, but you can't be scared. You have to remember you're on the same level as them. Just go out there and compete and the best man is going to win at the end of the day."