Inside Charmaine Jackson’s San Jose home, there is a room, a Raiders room, filled with Oakland memorabilia.
She and her son, former Cal Poly linebacker Kennith Jackson, are hoping he’ll be able to contribute something sometime soon.
Kennith, the Mustangs’ fifth all-time leading tackler, has committed to attend a Raiders rookie minicamp May 10 as an unsigned, undrafted rookie free agent. It will be the 6-foot, 230-pound inside linebacker’s NFL tryout.
Though chances of making the team are slim for a player with Jackson’s status, the only way for him to do so is to make the most of the opportunity.
“I need to go out there and show I have the speed to play at the next level,” Jackson said, “and to show that I’m willing to learn and willing to do the little things as far as showing up early and leaving late.”
Jackson has been working out with a trainer in the Bay Area, aiming to improve his foot speed as well as his proficiency in football drills.
He’s already seen improvement in a short amount of time.
At Cal Poly’s March 13 pro day, Jackson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.74 seconds, and at a pro day for local players hosted by the San Francisco 49ers late last month, Jackson improved his time to 4.69.
Approximately 50 players took part in the scouting event, Jackson said, with many coming from nearby Cal, Stanford and San Jose State.
“I was maybe one of two or three” FCS players,” said Jackson, who met 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and received encouraging feedback from linebackers coach Jim Leavitt. “They were impressed with what I did out there. Just to have that response and meet coach Harbaugh, it was nice to know I could compete in the one-on-ones with guys that were playing a level above me.
“But really, I don’t think the gap was that much better at all if any, and competing against those guys was good not only for coaches to see but for myself and personal experience and confidence.”
Jackson was a four-year starter at Cal Poly, earning some level of all-conference recognition and ranking second on the team in tackles every season. After playing his first two seasons as the weakside linebacker and finishing his final two as the middle linebacker, he finished with 302 career tackles and added six career interceptions.
Jackson was one of the few remaining recruits brought in by former Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson, who left after the 2008 season to become the head coach at Army.
Coming out of San Jose Archbishop Mitty High, Jackson was rated as the No. 4 prep fullback in his class in California by Scout.com and No. 30 in the nation by ESPN Insider.
He had 729 yards and scored seven touchdowns in his senior season while helping lead the Monarchs to a 7-3 record.
But incoming head coach Tim Walsh converted Jackson from fullback to linebacker in the spring of 2009, and Jackson shot up the depth chart.
He was an opening-game starter his redshirt freshman season and played nearly every defensive down since.
The area Jackson wishes he had more experience was in special teams. He did start the year playing on the kickoff coverage team his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons but was taken off those units after suffering shoulder injuries early in each year and coaches did not want to risk further damage.
Jackson knows special teams are one way he might be able to earn a spot in the NFL.
“They’re looking at me to get in and show what I can do,” Jackson said. “Not at every position do guys really fit into special teams, but being a linebacker, linebackers are very diverse and they can utilize them on punt game, kick coverage and kickoff return.”