The Tampa Bay Storm re-signed linebacker Dexter Jackson on Friday, and he'll be returning for his second season with the team. As he comes back from injury ready for his fifth season in the AFL, Jackson took time to discuss his dedication to having yet another great year as well as how he's counting down the days until that first game.
What have you been up to during the off-season?
I’ve been doing a lot of training, just trying to get ready for the season, and hanging out with my four-year-old daughter.
I heard you got engaged! Started planning for the wedding yet?
I did get engaged! It was in September, in Las Vegas. We’ve been doing a little planning, but I’m mostly out of all of that; she handles most of it.
How’d you propose?
It was cool. We’ve been together going on nine years, since high school. We were at the Bellagio Hotel, looking at the fountains, and I asked her if she’d marry me!
You were the Storm’s ironman last season. What does an honor like that mean to you as a professional athlete?
It means a lot when your team recognizes you, and it means a lot when you’re able to do anything that your coach asks of you. If he needs me to go block I can do that, if he needs me to chase down a quarterback I can do that as well. So I take much pride in that, being able to perform on both sides of the ball.
How are you able to adjust so seamlessly to different positions?
It’s just something that I feel like comes naturally. Even though I play the lineman and linebacker positions, I’ve always joked that I’m a running back in a big guy’s body. So I’ve always felt like I’ve had the ability to play on both sides of the ball, and Coach Samuels has given me the opportunity to show that talent.
What are your goals as a member of the Storm this year?
My first goal is to win the division; I would love to take home the division title. Beyond that, my goal is just to have a great season. I want to be a valued member of my team, and be able to perform for those guys and my coaches.
The Storm has made a number of big acquisitions over the past few months. Are you eager to get to work with this new group of guys and see how you come together?
Definitely! The off-season always feels like the longest part of the year; you’re just so ready to get back into things and get going. In football, you build a bond like no other bond that you will in life. So camp is fun, just getting around a group of guys that are chasing the same goal, coming together and working hard.
You’ve spent much of this off-season recovering from injury. What has the healing process been like for you?
It’s been tough. You want to do some things that your body is telling you that you can’t yet. You feel like Superman, you want to be healed in two weeks, but that’s not how it works. But I’ve been taking time to improve in other areas while I’ve been dealing with that injury; I’ve been working on getting stronger in my upper-body, watching more film, and perfecting my craft.
What are you most excited about for this upcoming season?
The first game! I’m excited for that first game of the year, just to get back out on the field and hear the Storm fans just go wild. There’s no other feeling like getting out there and hearing 15,000 people go crazy while playing the game that you love.