Hue Jackson is coming home. The Los Angles native will serve as head coach of the American Team at the 2020 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, marking the latest chapter in a coaching career that’s spanned more than 30 years.
Since beginning as an offensive assistant at his alma mater Pacific in 1987, Jackson has ascended to become a well-respected coach at the collegiate (California and USC) and NFL levels (Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals). In 2011, he took the reins as head coach of the Oakland Raiders for one season, and in 2015, he was named PFWA NFL Assistant Coach of the Year while with the Bengals.
We caught up with Jackson to talk about the wisdom he has to offer the next generation of players.
Why did you want to coach the Collegiate Bowl?
This is going to be these guys’ first intro to the NFL and having coached in the league in a lot of different places, I think I can give my guys advice to prepare them for that next step and providing professional instruction. Maybe one day, when they are looking back on their careers, they will say the coaching staff that Coach Jackson had during the Collegiate Bowl really helped me.
What do you recommend the athletes know going into the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl to prepare them for the week?
I hope they are in shape, that the foundation is ready because that is where it starts, and to be smart about it. Come in and compete and give it their all.
What advice can you offer guys trying to get to the next level?
To be in great shape, be coachable, be always interested in learning. There are different ways of doing things in football and it may be a bit different than the college game, but if they are ready to learn and really allow the staff to coach them, they will be in a good position moving forward.
What’s one thing you hope players know going into the week to set themselves apart?
I think the most important thing to know is that this will be a little more different and challenging than in college. I would hope they would be willing to do anything and everything, including contribute on special teams, to set themselves apart and to show to the scouts of why they were chosen to be on the team.
What advice would you give to the current upcoming generation of players that you have learned from coaching at the pro level?
Just always finding new ways to adapt and always looking for ways to get better. The good players are football-IQ smart. They work at their craft. They spend their time studying and they do spend the time.
The biggest thing I see for those players who want to avoid being labeled difficult is to never repeat those mistakes made by others that came before them. Whether it is preparing for that game to off-the-field decisions, they must make an opportunity to be drafted.
What would you say to the guys who don’t end up getting drafted?
It doesn’t mean it’s the end of your story. Your story is just beginning. It also doesn’t mean it’s the end of the opportunity. There are so many ways to make it into the football league. You never know how your story will unfold.
How do you feel about coaching against your friend Marvin Lewis in the Collegiate Bowl?
Just competing against him is always fun. It’s somebody that I really respect and someone I have a close relationship with. But when it’s time to play the game, we are both competitive and we want to win.