By Brad Locke
Gabe Jackson’s eagerness to reach the NFL is matched only by his eagerness to make his senior season a great one.
The left guard put his professional aspirations on hold to return for one more year at Mississippi State, a move that should improve his draft stock. It’s a move that will certainly help MSU’s offensive line.
A fourth-year starter, Jackson is the Bulldogs’ most experienced offensive lineman, and he anchors an interior group that’s become a strength for this offense. Dillon Day is back at center, and Justin Malone takes over full time at right guard after sharing snaps there last season.
“That’s one of the best feelings I’ve got coming back,” Jackson said. “I’ve been playing with them for almost three years straight, and they’re really experienced, and they’re getting better and working hard the whole summer. The confidence level is really high right now.”
There’s a chemistry that’s developed between the three, especially with Day, a third-year starter. He and Jackson share an unspoken language.
“It’s crazy,” Jackson said, “because without us even having to say anything, we know where one’s going to be at a certain time, or just fitting and certain hand placements, we know we’re going to be there right on time.”
Jackson was named second-team All-SEC as a sophomore and first-team as a junior, and he’s a first-team preseason All-SEC pick this year. He’s also on the watch lists for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award.
Returning for his senior season isn’t just about individual honors and improving his draft grade.
“I want to win a championship,” Jackson said. “That’s something I’ve been wanting since I got here.”
Coach Dan Mullen praised Jackson’s decision to return, noting that he will earn a degree in December, and that yes, he can improve his draft stock.
“I think that maturity in a young man really helps in that decision,” Mullen said.
If he has a good enough fall, Jackson should be a first- or second-round selection in the NFL Draft. It’s something he thinks about, and it’s something that helps motivate him to finish strong at MSU.
“It’s a good feeling knowing everything I’ve worked for in the past is almost there,” Jackson said. “I’m just a few months away. It’ll give me something to look forward to.”