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J.C. Jackson knows he can be a lockdown corner in NFL after a bumpy path

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Just a couple years ago, the Maryland cornerback was found not guilty on four felony armed robbery charges. Now he’s headed to the NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Central Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

J.C. Jackson’s path to the NFL has taken a few turns. He’s gone from the University of Florida, to being cleared of armed robbery charges, to junior college, and then to Maryland. Next up is the NFL Draft.

Jackson came into college ball as a coveted four-star cornerback out of Immokalee, Florida. A shoulder injury forced him to take on a medical redshirt in his first season at Florida. Then an arrest for armed robbery, which was followed by four felony charges against Jackson, led to his release from the Gators.

He was later found not guilty on the charges, but his time at Florida was done. Jackson went to Riverside Community College in California, then transferred to Maryland with three years of eligibility left. He reunited with Terrapins head coach D.J. Durkin, who was the defensive coordinator at Florida during Jackson’s first college season. Jackson also brought a new outlook on life to Maryland.

“I just carry myself a different way and I think differently now,” Jackson told SB Nation. “So that’s how I got here where I’m at today. Just thinking different, man. Just not doing stuff that’s not helping you get to where you need to go in life — that’s not helping me pursue my dreams.”

Jackson was focused on doing his job during a down year for Maryland

Maryland went 4-8 last season, and 2-7 in the Big Ten. The Terps had six different players attempt passes in 2017 thanks to a rash of quarterback injuries. That didn’t change the way Jackson approached the game.

“I mean, when you’re on a team that’s not doing pretty well, you can only do your job,” Jackson said. “As long as you’re balling, you’ll get the looks. So I feel like I did what I had to do. I did my job on the field. And I just couldn’t control that our quarterbacks got hurt. That’s something you can’t control.”

And Jackson did well. He built off of a strong 2016 season, which he finished with one interception, six pass breakups, and a forced fumble. He had three picks, seven pass breakups, and 40 tackles in 2017.

He believes that shows teams the kind of corner he can be at the next level.

Jackson will likely be a Day 3 pick in the draft, but he’s confident he can play in the NFL

“I’m going to be a shutdown corner. I’m going to be a lockdown,” Jackson said. “I’m going to help the team on the back end, in the secondary, on any team that picks me up.”

Jackson primarily played outside at Maryland, but he’s not married to that idea at the next level. He just wants to play.

“Whatever teams think I’ll best play at, I just want to be on the field.” Jackson said. “I’m a football player at the end of the day.”

Jackson is projected to go in the later rounds in the draft, but it’s still been quite the journey for Jackson from touted recruit to a renaissance in Maryland. But thanks to what he’s learned, the best should still be ahead for him.