KNOXVILLE — Malik Jackson carried the Tennessee banner in the 2012 NFL draft by himself.
The former Volunteers defensive lineman was just happy to hear his name called.
Jackson will join perhaps the most notable former UT player — Peyton Manning — after the Denver Broncos selected him with the second pick of the fifth round (137th overall) Saturday afternoon.
“I’m really excited,” Jackson said in an interview with the Times Free Press. “I’m more relieved than anything. It’s nerve-racking sitting there waiting and hoping to go on the first day and hoping you go on the second day and hoping you go on the third day.
“You just feel really relieved when your name’s called. I’m just ready to start the next process, which is trying to earn a spot and help the Broncos out any way I can.”
In an indication of where the UT program has been the past four years, the 6-foot-4, 284-pound Jackson was the only Vol to be picked. It’s the second time in the last four drafts (Robert Ayers in the first round to Denver in 2009) that UT has had just one player taken.
After tight end Luke Stocker went in the fourth round last year, the Vols went consecutive drafts without having a player taken in the first three rounds for the first time since a five-year stretch from 1959 to 1963.
Two ex-Vols who ended their careers elsewhere were drafted, though. Green Bay picked UT-Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman in the seventh round. Running back Bryce Brown, the crown jewel of coach Lane Kiffin’s lone signing class in 2009 who left UT after his freshman season and didn’t even play football in the 2011 season, went to Philadelphia earlier in the seventh round.
Safety Janzen Jackson, who was dismissed from UT last August, signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent.
Malik Jackson became the 330th draft pick in UT’s program history. Though that number leads the SEC and ranks seventh nationally, Jackson was the Vols’ latest selection in a draft since Gibril Wilson went 136th overall in 2004. He transferred from Southern Cal two summers ago for coach Derek Dooley’s first season.
Though he arrived on campus as a defensive end, Jackson began playing defensive tackle midway through the 2010 season and stayed there for the rest of his UT career. The Vols’ leader in tackles for loss, sacks and quarterback hurries earned All-SEC selections in each of his two UT seasons.
Jackson played in the Senior Bowl, participated in the NFL’s combine and spent about a month in Knoxville, where he worked out in UT’s facilities and attended most of the Vols’ spring practices.
He returned to his native California last weekend and got the call of his dreams Saturday.
“The pick doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “It’s just the fact that it was nerve-racking sitting there waiting. You hear people and he say, she say.
“You’ve got the Mel Kipers and all these people saying where you’re going to go, and you just want to see yourself called. I’m just ready to get started. I’m glad to be a Bronco.”
Former UT tailback Tauren Poole signed a free-agent deal with Carolina, and linebacker Austin Johnson signed a deal with Baltimore.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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