Air Force Preview Football

Air Force defensive tackle Jordan Jackson competes during the Cheez-It Bowl game Dec. 27, 2019, against Washington State in Phoenix.

When Jordan Jackson’s phone rang on Saturday, he tempered the enthusiasm of his family and friends who had gathered in his Jacksonville, Fla. home.

“I thought it was a joke,” he said. “I told everyone, ‘It’s not the real thing.’”

It was real. The New Orleans Saints took the Air Force graduate with the 15th pick in the sixth round of the NFL Draft – the highest draft position for a Falcons defensive player.

“I’m just so happy right now,” Jackson told members of the New Orleans media. “I can’t believe it.”

The call had come from assistant general manager, but Jackson didn’t recognize the number. It wasn’t until the assistant GM told him there were 3 minutes on the clock and the Saints were submitting his name that Jackson saw the time matched what he saw on television and finally realized a childhood dream was coming true.

Coach Dennis Allen then jumped on the call, welcoming Jackson to the organization.

“I feel blessed,” Jackson said. “It’s surreal.”

Jackson becomes the ninth Air Force player taken in the draft all-time. Only center Daniel Palmer, also taken with the 15th pick in the sixth round, went higher when the Chargers took him No 178 overall in 1996. Jackson was the 194th overall selection this year.

A four-year contributor who helped the Falcons to 11-2 and 10-3 records over his final two seasons, Jackson recorded 29.5 tackles for loss for 181 yards. He was a two-time All-Mountain West second-team selection and finished with 15.5 sacks for 137 yards, the yardage ranking second in program history.

He measured 6-foot-5, 290 pounds at the Combine.

Jackson graduated in December, having taken the Fall 2020 off from the academy on turnback.

Allen noted speed, quickness, size, length and intelligence as qualities that stood out about Jackson, and he pointed to his ability to rush the passer.

“We felt like he was somebody that could come in and compete and develop and can help us as an inside defensive tackle,” Allen said.

That answers a longstanding question as to where Jackson would play at the next level. At Air Force he played three defensive line positions, from end to tackle to nose guard.

“Wherever they need me,” Jackson said. “I’m ready to go.”

Air Force in the NFL Draft

Ernie Jennings, WR, San Francisco 49ers, 1972 (10th/No. 1257)

Dave Lewson, PK, New York Giants, 1976 (16th/No. 444)

Chad Hennings, DT, Dallas Cowboys, 1988 (11th/No. 290)

Joe Wood, PK, Houston Oilers, 1992 (12th/No. 332)

Steve Russ, LB, Denver Broncos, 1995 (7th/No. 218)

Dan Palmer, OL, San Diego Chargers, 1996 (6th/No. 178)

Bryce Fisher, DL, Buffalo Bills, 1998 (7th/No. 248)

Austin Cutting, LS, Minnesota Vikings, 2019 (7th/No. 250)

Jordan Jackson, DL, New Orleans Saints, 2022 (6th/No. 198)

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