Tyson Jackson is a pretty happy man these days.
At 30 years old, he’s now a reserve defensive lineman on the Atlanta Falcons, who are playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday. He’s also pocketed nearly $51 million in his career, and that certainly can’t hurt, either.
It’s been three years since the former No. 3 overall pick in 2009 left the Chiefs, and if you’re wondering if Jackson has any regrets about his career, or the impact he made in Kansas City – largely solid, but he didn’t make a Pro Bowl (a common expectation of such a high pick) – he’ll happily tell you the answer is no.
“Very happy – I’m pleased with my time in Kansas City,” said Jackson, a part-time starter in Atlanta who recorded 13 tackles, zero sacks and one hurry this season. “I made a lot of great friends on that team and I’m excited to be with the Falcons and I’m excited to be in the Super Bowl.”
Jackson, a 6-foot-4, 296-pounder who recorded a total of nine sacks in five seasons with the Chiefs, said he never felt pressure to live up to the status of being the No. 3 pick.
“Nah, man, I really just went out there every single day and tried to be the best player I could possibly be,” Jackson said. “If I fell short of some people’s expectations, I’m sorry for that. But I can honestly say I put my best foot forward every time.”
Jackson, however, was good enough with the Chiefs – particularly when it came to stopping the run, his calling card – to earn a five-year, $25 million free-agent deal with the Atlanta Falcons after a 2013 season in which he posted a career-high four sacks.
It was no coincidence that the man who drafted him in Kansas City – former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli – was on board in Atlanta when they signed him to the deal. He started all 16 games in 2014 and played his typical steady run defense but failed to record a single sack in an increasingly pass-oriented league.
After that season, the Falcons hired former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as head coach, and Jackson was asked to adapt from to a more-upfield, one-gap style of play, as opposed to the two-gapping style he’d grown so accustomed to.
“It’s different,” Jackson said. “I think the good thing for me, it still has some elements of the 3-4 that’s still connected to it. It’s somewhat of a hybrid defense, all depending on what kind of playcalls we have. So it’s been a smooth transition.
“Honestly, Coach Q did a real good job making the defense as simple as possible, and putting players in position to make plays.”
Jackson’s starts dropped to 12 in 2015 and seven in 2016, and he’s still yet to record a sack as a Falcon. But defensive line coach Bryan Cox said the team is happy with his contributions.
“Tyse is a veteran who can play multiple positions and help us out in any area that we need,” Cox said. “He’s an unselfish guy and he’s been good for us.”
Cox added that Jackson – who played about 30 percent of the Falcons’ defensive snaps this year – still plays the run well, when circumstances allow it.
“Yeah, (he does) when he’s in there,” Cox said. “This game has become such a nickel game that he’s had to get plays (where he could) and re-shape and re-form himself.”
Jackson, now an eight-year veteran, also serves as a veteran voice on an increasingly young defensive line.
“We’ve got other guys that are older,” Cox said. “But he’s a guy that won’t hesitate to answer a question or help out any way he can. He’s done a good job for us.”
For his part, Jackson says his teammates have made it easy to fit in, adding that he’s still excited to go to work everyday.
“It’s easy when you’re on a team like this, where everybody literally works hard because they’re working off the guy next to them,” Jackson said. “When you come to work, you’re excited.”
Which, in turn, makes it easy to put his days in Kansas City – and any perceived expectations he may have left unfilled – in the rear-view mirror.
“I’m in the Super Bowl, bro,” Jackson said with a laugh. “That’s the top of the top when you’re talking football. I’m very pleased.”