Not afraid to talk: Malik Jackson embraces leadership role

Tennessee defensive end Malik Jackson tackles Vanderbilt running back Kennard Reeves during the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010 in Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville.

Photo by Michael Patrick

Tennessee defensive end Malik Jackson tackles Vanderbilt running back Kennard Reeves during the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010 in Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville.

If the microphone is on and Malik Jackson is sitting behind it, somewhere a team manager is clearing off space on the bulletin board.

The Tennessee defensive end has no filter and a sense of humor he doesn't seem to ever want to hide, which even before a single practice has likely provided some motivation in locker rooms around the SEC.

What does he think of Georgia's Aaron Murray, who many expect to be the class of the league's quarterbacks?

"Just another guy," Jackson said last week at SEC Media Days.

Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina?

"He's only a sophomore ... you can't judge somebody off one year."

How do you tackle somebody like Alabama's Trent Richardson?

"I feel like once you just hit him in the mouth a few times and get him knowing that you're there and you're not going anywhere, then he'll soften up."

Of course, there are more to Jackson's quotes than the parts that will be highlighted and taped up for guys like Murray, Lattimore and Richardson to see before playing the Vols this fall. But that's perhaps where the senior's comments get the most interesting, because when viewed as a whole, the point generally remains the same.

Jackson almost always steers the conversation back to UT and its players, perhaps making him much more of a supportive teammate and leader than a brash, cocky trash-talker.

"To be honest with you, I'm bad with keeping up with other teams and guys," Jackson said. "So, to be honest, I probably wouldn't trade anybody on our team (for anybody else in the SEC). Everybody works hard, and I'm happy to be with every single one of those guys.

"These guys are all happy to be here, they work really hard and I wouldn't trade them for the world."

If that occasionally leads to backhanded compliments about Lattimore still needing to improve while talking up Tauren Poole as the best rusher in the league, that appears to work just fine with Jackson.

As the new UT tattoos on his right arm can attest, the transfer from Southern California has completely devoted himself to the program. And after arriving last summer thanks to NCAA penalties that allowed him to leave the Trojans without penalty or all that much background about where he was heading, Jackson has quickly embraced a leadership role for a team short on veterans — not to mention another gig as a go-to spokesman for the Vols.

"It's been kind of hard," Jackson said. "I ask my coach a lot, 'What should I do (as a leader) in certain situations?' It's pretty tough. It's my first time.

"Coming back, I kind of know the swing of things, so I'm getting used to everything. I'm getting the young guys on the same page as us. It's just good to be in the system more than a year and have the same coach for more than a year. Just getting used to things."

With only one season under his belt, it's also no surprise that he hasn't familiarized himself with all the rosters around the conference enough to have them com

mitted to memory.

When asked about Murray, he first had to double-check with the media that he was the quarterback for the Bulldogs. He had to do something similar with the Crimson Tide when he called Richardson the toughest tailback to tackle in the league.

But Jackson knows his teammates, and given his way, he's much more interested in shining the spotlight on the Vols and their young talent instead of pumping up opponents.

"I know what to expect of them," Jackson said. "I expect greatness from all of them.

"We've just got to work and keep working and work to their potential so on Saturdays they can show everyone else their greatness."

Jackson has spent the summer delivering that message directly to UT.

No bulletin board will be necessary.

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.

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Comments » 23

dvhill100 writes:

The great UT teams always had outstanding player leadership. Hopefully MJ can fill that spot.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Leadership is good. Think Al Wilson...

BleedsOrangeinMO writes:

Someone needs to get Al Wilson and MJ together on the phone or one on one in a room at UT. Al will teach/show him what leadership is!!!!

KingDanno (Inactive) writes:

Lead by example. I wanna some hits! Get that D fired up!

UTByrd writes:

I don't believe you can teach leadership. Nurture, maybe, but not teach. It is something you have or you don't.
It is also much easier to "lead by example" than by the words you use and how you use them.
True leadership comes out in battle and I fully expect Malik to be like Al Wilson when the time comes.
Go VOLS!!!!!

bigorange61 writes:

Is Jackson back to playing defensive end? He was moved to tackle, right? Or am I confused.

CoastGuardVol writes:

Malik is quickly becoming my favorite Vol on this squad. I love the fact that he has embraced UT so much in a short amount of time. I cannot wait until the season kicks off.

BUBBA-Deeeeee writes:

GOOOOOOOOOO Vols. I don't know why this talent left USC ????

Orangeblood13 writes:

like you know anything of hardwork momas boy, cantstandsaban you sir are a keyboard warrior. so sick of hearing you spew your garbage

RashaadSalabeb writes:

We were fortunate to get Malik. He will be a pretty good player. I think he'll make the NFL. The other guys need to step up too. Regardless of what happens I'm ready for some football! Go Vols! Screw the rest....right Hermmy!?

PHAT_VOL writes:

How refressing!! Good read none of the usuall WE ARE to small to inexperienced to young to short on numbers. Remember its not trash talk if you can back it up. AND he does. These VOLS need more players like Malik.
GO VOLS!!

budd#207344 writes:

in response to osu2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

so I guess osu must be really motivated after all the stuff said about "the senator". Oh wait that was all true

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

I remember the day the article about Malik transferring to UT from U$C was posted on GVX..I screamed so loud that you could probably hear me thru the neighborhood..I knew that he was going to be special and be a huge asset to a very depleted UT football squad, so it was obvious that he was going to play early and often..And so much for Coach Redbull saying that he would never start @ UT.

Malik has turned into a great leader of the team, which is needed because every team needs that one player to take charge and keep things rolling on the field.

I agree with others that say he has became their fav. Vol..He is right at the top of my list as well.

Smokey is on the prowl for a possible future NFL contract for Malik...

VolsFanInAfghanistan writes:

Like I've always said why is it that trolls have to come to another schools site to stir up trash talking, sometimes it's all fun and good, but when a comment has to be removed due to language or racial comments whats the point of talking. This was really a good story in my opinion and this young man made some really good points. Why worry about what he can't control about football until saturdays. And as he put it "I ask the Coach a lot", well to that young mans credit that statement is what true leaders do. Being supportive of his teammates, coach and school is how this young man will help us in the fall. As for all you negative posting trolls, find a better hobby other than coming in here and making these chats unpleasurable.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I do remember them saying that, Naval..and well now, he is only a STARTER on the DL and on the All-SEC Preseason squad.

Off topic, every time I read one of your responses to them I always remember you saying in sarcasm "with all those 11*'s back up 6*'s" or something like that...and don't forgot that they also think that they have the greatest "coaching staff ever assembled"..But had Muschamp taken the UT job, it would have been a totally different story!!!I have gotten to where I just SKIP OVER THE TROLLS COMMENTS except when you or someone else responds to them because the responses are always excellent!!

Anyway, Malik is going to be an EXCELLENT leader for this team!!

gatorhator4eva writes:

two words come to mind, Al Wilson. this guy could be what the team needs.

Gart5 writes:

in response to osu2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Do you even think before you type anything? He never went to UNLV. He is preseason first team all-SEC. Nice try though troll.

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I remember that too...way back when!! The trolls have gotten worse to the point where they have taken over the site..As I said, I just skip over their posts and get to the REAL Vol fans because we do have a few of those on here.

Smokey is on the prowl for REAL Vol fans...

VOLliven2it writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I hear you on Bray troll but Lattimore didn't BEAT em all did he? You move on til something of substance comes from your pitiful team.

Pompey writes:

in response to CantStandSaban:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

....Tyler Bray has more potential at the position than any Alabama QB since Joe Namath...Latimore has potential as well but without him SC is Kentucky, or worse....and I still like Saban a lot better than you...

CroKev writes:

Man, I cannot wait to hear some pads and helmets poppin'!

VolGrad writes:

in response to BleedsOrangeinMO:

Someone needs to get Al Wilson and MJ together on the phone or one on one in a room at UT. Al will teach/show him what leadership is!!!!

Al would only commend him. Malik has not said anything that he has lived up to himself already. And now 30+ pounds more muscle, he's got the potential to say even more. I'd say he has kept his remarks as conservative as his testosterone levels could allow him, demonstrating a high degree of self-control... for a defensive player. The only advice Al would give him is to make sure he doesn't miss that first opening to the QB, then up the schmack a bit. He really should learn not to be so diplomatic when it comes to the opposition.

O my. The season hasn't started yet, and I'm feeling increased levels of disrespect for all our opponents. The wait is excruciating! Can't we start a few weeks early?! What the heck is wrong with the football gods?!!!

GBO!!!

ThatsMyVol writes:

in response to osu2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

osu2, I don't know where you found this information, but the Malik Jackson who currently attends UT NEVER attended UNLV. And, for the record, he left USC for other reasons beyond the "playing time". I usually try not to read these "comment" things because of haters like you, although it would be nice to be able to read what UT football fans think of him. Why don't you find a life! Oh, may I ask....where and when did YOU play football? (and using your thumbs while sitting on the couch stuffing your face with chips and beer doesn't count)

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