The preseason praise for Asa Jackson keeps mounting.
Jackson, a Cal Poly cornerback entering his senior season, was named to the official Buck Buchanan Award Watch List on Monday.
The award, named after the former Grambling great turned Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame tackle, is given annually to the best defensive player in the Championship Subdivision. Nineteen other players joined Jackson on the preliminary list released by The Sports Network. Each year the list is eventually whittled down, culminating in a final vote by nearly 200 members of the media.
“It’s an honor,” Jackson said. “It really is. From now until December — and hopefully January — it’s time for me to prove them right.”
In addition to three consecutive Cal Poly products that won the award from 2004 through 2006 (Jordan Beck, Chris Gocong and Kyle Shotwell), several others during the 16-year history of the honor went on to play in the NFL, most notably current Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Jared Allen.
“It’s one of those things that you take pride in, for sure, to even be on the list,” Jackson said, “but I take it with a grain of salt, because preseason stuff doesn’t really mean too much. I want to be on the list at the end of the season.”
Monday’s announcement comes on the heels of several similar accolades for Jackson, a 5-foot-11 fourth-year starter from Christian Brothers High in Sacramento.
Jackson, who clocked a 4.40-second 40-yard dash time at Cal Poly’s pro day this past spring, was recently chosen as a second-team preseason All-American at the FCS level in Lindy’s college football preview magazine. He was also selected as one of the 10 best non-Bowl Subdivision players in the nation by ESPN’s Bruce Feldman.
To top it off, Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh told TSN that during his 25-year career, Jackson is “the best football player at his position” that he has coached.
“I don’t really look at it like added pressure,” Jackson said, “because no matter what, I just have to do what I can do. I have to control what I can control.”
Jackson had 55 tackles, two interceptions returned for 62 yards and nine breakups as a junior. Also the Mustangs’ full-time punt returner, Jackson’s career average of 13.8 yards per return is a program record.
“I love playing returns,” Jackson said. He quipped that he has been pestering the Mustangs’ staff to get him in on kickoffs, as well.
Ironically, the Mustangs will open this season against the same team Jackson made his first start against, San Diego State, on Sept. 3 at Qualcomm Stadium. The much-improved Aztecs feature a familiar foe for Jackson in senior quarterback Ryan Lindley. Lindley, who has also started since his true freshman season, is widely projected as a high-round draft pick nowadays.
In their first encounter, a 29-27 Cal Poly win in 2008, Jackson announced his arrival with a bang, returning an interception of a Lindley pass 46 yards.
While a repeat type of performance would obviously be sweet, “You can’t force that kind of stuff,” Jackson said of the game-changing play. “I’m just going to go out there and play my game.”