Growing up: MSU’s Jackson blossoms into top lineman

MSU lineman Gabe Jackson is a finalist for the Conerly Trophy, which will be awarded next week.(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

MSU lineman Gabe Jackson is a finalist for the Conerly Trophy, which will be awarded next week.(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Gabe Jackson has come a long way from the guy who snuck Snickers candy bars inside his pants at practice as a true freshman.

Now a fifth-year senior at Mississippi State, Jackson is considered the top offensive guard in college football and could potentially be a top pick in April’s NFL Draft.

“It was just about growing up, learning the system and learning the right things to do from watching the older guys,” Jackson said. “I just tried to get better and work at it every day.”

One of the veterans Jackson was privileged to learn under was standout tackle Derek Sherrod. Jackson practiced alongside the future first-round NFL draft pick during his redshirt season in 2009.

“It was just his work ethic,” Jackson said of Sherrod. “He was always working on his technique and being fundamentally sound. I just watched how he practiced. Even when we didn’t have pads on, he was still working on his technique.”

This year, Jackson became the first Bulldog since Sherrod to earn multiple SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week awards. The 6-foot-4, 340-pounder earned the honor for the third time this week, grading out at 85-percent against Arkansas with three pancake blocks.

Conerly nominee

Jackson was also nominated for the C Spire Conerly Trophy given to the top college football player in Mississippi. Should he win, Jackson would be the first offensive lineman to claim the award in its 18-year history.

The Liberty native has started every game of his Bulldog career. Thursday, he will tie Georgia’s Aaron Murray – who’s out for the season with an injury – for the most active starts in college football.

Jackson had the opportunity to enter the NFL following his junior season but improved his draft stock by returning this year.

“I think it was a great opportunity,” Jackson said. “I wanted to give it another go around and play my senior year and enjoy it with my other teammates.”

Jackson has only one guaranteed game left in Starkville. He is hoping an MSU victory in the Egg Bowl will extend his season with a bowl trip.

“This game motivates me a lot,” Jackson said. “I look forward to going to bowl games and playing in them. It would just be another game longer that I’d get to play with my teammates.”

The former three-star recruit from Amite County High School was part of Dan Mullen’s first recruiting class at State and likes the legacy he has left behind.

“There’s a lot of young guys too that are going to be ready to step up. There’s not going to be a fall off,” he said.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com