Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 2010



Year one of the NFL wasn’t exactly what Tyson Jackson expected.

At West St. John, Jackson won a state championship as the anchor of Laury Dupont’s suffocating Rams defense, capturing Class 2A Defensive Player of the Year honors along the way.

It was more of the same at LSU, where in his junior year of 2007 he helped the Tigers to a victory over Ohio State in the BCS National Championship game.

When Jackson was drafted third overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009 by then-newly hired general manager Scott Pioli — of New England Patriots fame — it wasn’t a stretch to assume that Jackson’s gravy train of on field success would keep on flowing.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are NFL success stories.

“It was a rough first year, record wise,” mused Jackson. “We struggled. It was everything I didn’t expect, to be honest. Coming from LSU, West St. John, I was just used to winning.

“At this level, it’s something everyone has to go through.”

Jackson immediately stepped into the starting lineup for the Chiefs as a starting defensive end in their 3-4 alignment, and he finished the year with 37 tackles.

But the Chiefs finished 4-12 — in four years at LSU, Jackson’s teams lost just 11 games.

But things began turning around late last season for Kansas City, and Jackson notices a different feeling in the air as the Chiefs prepare to open their season at home against the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football Sept. 13.

The Chiefs scored upset wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos over the stretch run, helping derail playoff pushes by both teams, and suffered a close 17-10 loss at Cincinnati, a playoff squad.

“At the end, we started really coming together,” said Jackson. “Now, guys are more confident in the situation as a whole. We’re all looking forward to some good things.”

Jackson speaks of his rookie year as a learning experience, something that will strengthen him in the long run. One thing he realized early on was that to be successful in the league, one cannot treat football as a job, but a lifestyle.

“You see how much people put into it. Someone looks at this and things guys just come out on Sunday or Monday night and that’s that. But you don’t believe it until you see it,” said Jackson. “It’s 24-7 football, and it just comes with the territory.”

Luckily, Jackson was not a man on an island when he reported to Chiefs camp a year ago. He’s had plenty of familiar faces to show him the ropes. Former LSU stars Dwayne Bowe, Glenn Dorsey, Rudy Niswanger and Travis Daniels are among Kansas City veterans, the first three teammates of Jackson while at LSU.

“It made the transition smoother,” he said.

Rebuilding can be an uphill climb in the NFL, but the second year pro seems up to doing his part. Putting in the hard work has never been a problem for him, and it goes back to his upbringing.

Raised by a single mother, Denise Bovie, Jackson learned to take northing for granted. Nothing is promised to you, he said, a belief that keeps him grounded.

“Life isn’t always about getting not about what you want, it’s about getting what you need,” said Jackson. “There were a lot of things I wanted growing up that I was unable to get. That made me a better person. She kept me humble. That’s my best friend in the entire world.”

She’s one reason Jackson hasn’t forgotten Edgard, his home. This summer, he returned to his hometown determined to give back. Jackson purchased school supplies for all of the students at West St. John elementary. He purchased football and baseball equipment for local little league squads, and pitched in his help in football camps for area youth. He also showed appreciation to his aforementioned “best friend” by remodeling her home.

Martin Sylvain, West St. John’s track and field coach who remains close with Jackson and his family, said that Jackson especially wants to do what he can to help local children further their academic pursuits.

“He focuses on academics because he realizes that there are few Tyson Jacksons that go on to the NFL, but there are many who can go on to college as he did,” said Sylvain.

Sylvain, who coached Jackson in Biddy Basketball as a youth, was a guest of Jackson’s at both his LSU graduation and the NFL Draft, and they speak once a week. Jackson said that Sylvain is another reason he’ll never forget Edgard.

“He’s been there from day one,” said Jackson. “From when I was seven years old, he and his son Aaron were always there with me. He treated me like a child of his. I’m so thankful for them … he’s been a major influence in my life.”

Said Sylvain: “He was a great kid, and we loved having him around.

It’s wonderful to see the kind of man he’s become. He’s got such maturity and toughness to him.”

But for now, his time in Edgard is over once again, as the all day, every day rigors of the NFL call to him.

Jackson isn’t one to play the prediction game. But he sees a revamped coaching staff (including former Patriot coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel) heading a young team continuing to mature, and can’t help but feel optimistic.

“I can promise you this much: it’s going to be an exciting year for Kansas City,” he said.