Western Kentucky University has developed a reputation as a breeding ground for under-recruited players. In the last handful of years Brandon Doughty, Forrest Lamp, Tyler Higbee, Taywan Taylor, Mike White and Jack Doyle have all turned their time in Bowling Green, KY, into NFL opportunities.
And the best-kept secret in the 2020 NFL Draft also developed his game on the Western Kentucky University campus.
Much is made about this WR class but one player is often forgotten.
Dontavion “Lucky” Jackson.
The nickname comes from his parents. They already had one child and did not plan for any additional children. However, when the family found out they were pregnant they considered themselves lucky to add a child to the family. His parents called him Lucky from an early age and it stuck from then on.
And the Hilltoppers football program should consider themselves lucky to have landed such a dynamic player like Jackson.
Jackson torched the competition during his collegiate career seeing him finish as one of the most decorated players in WKU history.
- 94 receptions in 2019 (2nd All-Time single-season WKU history)
- 209 career receptions (2nd All-Time WKU history)
- 2680 career receiving yards (3rd All-Time WKU history)
- 9 games of 100+ yards receiving (2nd All-Time WKU history)
- 2019 1st Team All-Conference USA
- 2019 PFF College 2nd Team All-Conference USA
- 2017 & 2018 Honorable Mention Conference USA
And as if those accolades weren’t enough Jackson went out on a high note cementing himself with a legendary performance in a 23-20 victory over Western Michigan in the First Responder Bowl. For the day, Jackson posted 17 catches 148 yards and 1 TD en route to being named game MVP.
Given the statistical output, it is easy to see how Jackson found himself on the Fred Biletnikoff Award watch list heading into his senior season. And Jackson’s senior season was one for the ages with 5 games of 100+ yards receiving as he tallied 1133 yards on 94 grabs while hitting the end zone 4 times.
As many people wonder how did someone with such immense talent land with the Hilltoppers?
Well, for that answer we must travel back to Lexington, KY, Jackson’s hometown. Growing up Jackson always had his hand in something competitive whether it was baseball, basketball or football. And while football is the main priority now for a while it was basketball. Jackson stated, “Football came easily to me, and my junior year (of high school) is when I got serious about football.”
By dedicating himself to football it meant he had to have a serious conversation with his basketball coach about his basketball recruiting options and opportunities. “I had to tell my basketball coach early in my senior year that I was fully committed to Western Kentucky to play football because there were smaller schools talking to me about basketball. I just wanted everyone to know where I was with it. I’m competitive. I just wanted to compete and play. That basketball season still meant something to me,” said Jackson.
Jackson discussed how his basketball background helped his overall skills as a WR. Jackson said, “I would say there are definitely translations between the two; just the athleticism in general. Being able to see things before they happen; the anticipation factor. And the competitive aspect too. Also, attacking the ball. The movement of the hips and the change of direction. There are definitely translations and it helped me.”
And that competitive spirit would follow Jackson when he arrived on campus. Jackson detailed the competitive nature of the WKU WR group when he arrived on campus, “I was fortunate to come in and have guys in front of me that set the bar really high. Everything was a competition. It didn’t matter what it was; who could run the best route, who knows the most plays, who could draw up the play with the most detail. Everything was a competition and it made us want to be better. It really pushed us as young guys because you didn’t want to be the guy that didn’t know anything. You learned the importance of extra work.”
One of those WRs that set a high bar was Taywan Taylor and we discussed the pressure of replacing a 3rd Round Draft Pick. “I didn’t really feel any pressure, it was more so I have a chip on my shoulder and that is how I have always been. I have always had that underdog mentality. I feel like I was overlooked and I feel like I can compete with the best of them. I always felt a sense of urgency to take care of business.”
Taking care of business is the best way to describe Jackson and his leadership style when we dove into some of the tougher times during his college career, he mentioned how putting in the extra work when the season is not going as planned is most important. Jackson stated, “That is when you find yourself. When things aren’t going perfect that is when the true test happens. This is when you see what you’re made of. You have to look in the mirror, check yourself and keep doing the right things. Take a breath, focus and get back to it.”
Jackson realized the NFL was a feasible goal early on at Western Kentucky, “Honestly, it was once I saw my teammates go to the league, I was out there practicing with Brandon Doughty and Tyler Higbee. Just being with those guys every day. Once, you see guys that are right next to you get drafted, that was my ‘This really can happen’ moment.”
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Jackson had his WKU Pro Day Workout delayed until further notice. (We at Draft Diamonds were able to obtain this film though of Jackson’s pro day) Jackson and I briefly discussed his plan for still conducting a workout, and Jackson mentioned that he will explore filming a workout and posting it to various social media platforms so NFL evaluators and personnel can still evaluate his workout; depending on how this plays out in accordance to the NFL draft.
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