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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
TAMPA, Fla. — The time is now for University of Iowa sophomore defensive back Joshua Jackson.
The Cornith, Texas, native will make his first career start in the 2017 Outback Bowl when the Hawkeyes face off against No. 20 Florida on Jan. 2 at Raymond James Stadium.
“It’s a big start,” said Jackson. “We’re playing a top-notch team. It’s something I am looking forward to. It means a lot and will be a great opportunity.”
Jackson was thrust into the lineup in Iowa’s 40-10 victory over 15th ranked Nebraska in the regular season finale when freshman Manny Rugamba went down with a shoulder injury. He’s one of three healthy defensive backs left on the Iowa roster.
“There is no time for nervousness or fear, you just have to go out and play,” said Jackson. “I have been playing football my whole life, you have to go out and play. It’s your responsibility to go and carry the load.”
Jackson responded against Nebraska by tying a career-high with two solo tackles and tallying a career-best two pass breakups. The performance nearly doubled Jackson’s season output, as he now has five tackles in 10 games.
“It helps with your focus and confidence when you get your first extended game action and get a lot of game reps,” he said. “Coming into this bowl prep I have prepared better than I have during the season.”
Jackson joined the Hawkeyes in 2013 out of Lake Dallas High School, where he was an all-district selection at wide receiver and defensive back. After redshirting in 2014, he saw action in 14 games in 2015, making eight tackles and recording two pass breakups.
Now he’s running with the first team defense.
“More is expected of you,” said Jackson of his ascent up the depth chart. “You have to be able to come out and know exactly what your responsibility is. The main thing is you have to prepare like you’re (first string), focus like it, and go into the meeting room with a purpose and stay focused on details.
“If you’re in there, you have to make sure you’re able to carry the load that you’re responsible for.”
Jackson will be the third defensive back to line up on the other side of All-American Desmond King in 2016. Senior Greg Mabin started the first nine games and Rugamba the final three.
“(Desmond) tells me to stay focused,” said Jackson. “To make sure you do everything right, do the next thing right, and to stay ahead.”
Jackson expects to be busy Jan. 2. The Gators average 215.3 passing yards and have 16 passing touchdowns. Three receivers — Antonio Callaway, Brandon Powell, and DeAndre Goolsby — have 36 or more receptions.
“I am the new guy, I expect targets,” said Jackson. “I am going to prepare as hard as I can and make the plays I am going to make.”
The 2017 Outback Bowl will kick off at noon (CT) on ABC with Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, and Dr. Jerry Punch on the call.