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Where are they now? Former Rams WR & 5-time Pro Bowler Harold Jackson

Much like when movies and television shows are filmed, second takes can prove to be better in football, too.

Harold Jackson was a 5-10, 155-pound wide receiver from Jackson State when the Rams chose him in the 12th round of the 1968 NFL Draft. Small in stature, his potential was huge. Eventually.

"I was so excited because I got the opportunity," Jackson said. "Coming from a small institution like Jackson State, and then I wasn't the biggest guy in the world, I was very lucky to get that chance to come and play for the Rams."

Jackson didn't actually play much during his first season – two games with no receptions.

"Yeah, that was very difficult. But being a rookie, you're playing with Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen. And so you just figure that you were very fortunate being on a team with those kind of guys," Jackson said.

"When I went to the Rams, usually the rookies have to sing and pick up (cafeteria) trays and all that stuff for the veterans. And I might have been the only rookie that never sang and never had to pick up trays because when I went out on the field, I was told from what I did, I represented myself. So I had a lot of respect from all the veteran players."

On the recommendation of one of those veteran players, Irv Cross, Philadelphia traded for Jackson prior to the following season. Cross, who had also been traded to the Eagles that year, mentioned the highly-impressive, but little-used wide receiver to general manager Pete Retzlaff.

"When I got traded to Philly, man, I was blessed, and felt like I had an opportunity," Jackson said. "I felt somebody saw something in me. I felt like that was a chance for me to get an opportunity to really make a name for myself and prove that I could play in the NFL amongst those big ol' guys."

And that he did. In his first season with the Eagles, Jackson caught 65 passes for a league-leading 1,116 yards and nine touchdowns. He finished off the year with a trip to the Pro Bowl. In 1972, he led the NFL with 62 receptions for 1,048 yards, and also finished off that year with a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Jackson's next trip, however, would be back to Los Angeles as part of the 1973 trade that sent veteran quarterback Roman Gabriel to Philadelphia.

"When I got traded back to the Rams, I cried," Jackson said. "I cried because I did not want to leave Philadelphia. Everybody looked at me and said, 'Man, you've got to be crazy. You're going to California.' But I felt like I had so much going for me when I was in Philly.

"(Rams Head Coach) Chuck Knox told me, 'We had to make that move because we thought that you were the guy that could come in here and really help this program.' And they had traded (with the Chargers for veteran quarterback) John Hadl. John and I, we had a great year.

"I ended up that year with (a league-leading) 13 touchdown (receptions). And 13 touchdowns back during that time was a lot of touchdowns because everybody used to call Chuck Knox 'Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust' because he just liked to run the ball. We had games that we didn't throw the ball but 10 times. And now they're throwing the ball 65, 70 times a game."

With the Rams for five seasons, 1973-77, Jackson was named All-Pro in 1973 and selected to play in three more Pro Bowls while totaling 200 receptions for 3,591 yards and 36 touchdowns. What are among his fondest memories from those days?

"The guys that I played with. We had a great team and the five years that we were there with Chuck Knox, our worst season was 10-4. We used to have our division won with about five or six games to go before the season was over," Jackson said.

"And probably the game that everybody always remembers is when I scored the four touchdowns against the Cowboys in the first half (on October 14, 1973). And I probably could have had four or five more if Chuck Knox would have let us go.

"He figured that was enough for the day. It was 31-14 at halftime and he thought that was enough for the day. And when the game was over, it ended up 37-31. He said he would never do that again."

Following a 16-year career with the Rams, Eagles, New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, and Seattle Seahawks, Jackson would learn what the game was like from Knox's perspective.

His path to the sideline where he'd wear a headset instead of shoulder pads began when Raymond Berry, who was his position coach with the Patriots, became New England's head coach in 1985, and Jackson called to congratulate him.

"He said, 'Give me your phone number where you're going to be when the season opens,'" Jackson said. "I then had flown home to Mississippi, and the phone rang. It was Coach Berry. He said, 'Harold, I've got this idea. I want you to coach my receivers.' And when he said that, my jaw dropped because something I did not want to do is coach. I used to look at the coaches and they never went home. They were always in the office. 

"So I said, 'Coach, I'll be back in L.A. in about a week.' And he said, 'Well, just think about it and give me a call.' Twenty minutes later he called back and said, 'This is the amount of money that I'm going to be able to pay you.' I said, 'OK, Coach. I'll give you a call when I get back to L.A.' I hung up the phone and 20 minutes later he called back, 'Have you thought about it?'

"And when I got back home to L.A., a contract with the Patriots was sitting in my mailbox.

"I talked to Chuck Knox, and he said, 'Go give it a year and if you don't like it, get out of it. Because in this game, they'll forget who you are real fast.' So I called Coach Berry and told him, 'I think I'm going to take the job.' And that year, we ended up going to the Super Bowl (XX against Chicago). I said, 'Wow, this ain't bad.' So after that, I coached for 10 years in the league."

Jackson would go on to coach wide receivers for Tampa Bay and New Orleans. In all, he would be a position or head coach for 23 seasons in the NFL, Arena Football League, United Football League, and for five college teams.  

"I said, 'You know what? Somebody put something into me. They thought that I had a chance to play in the league. So this is a fine time for me to put something back into somebody.' And that's one of the things that I always enjoyed," Jackson said.  

"I used to tell them, 'Never let nobody tell you what you can't do.' That's what I'd done. I never let nobody tell me that I could not play football. That's what I tried to teach them. And that's how I always treated my players no matter where, in college and the pros."

Now enjoying his retirement, Jackson and his wife, Carolyn, make their home in Los Angeles, where once a Ram, always a Ram.

"I know that everywhere I go, if you're wearing something with the Rams (logo) on it, everybody, they talk about it," he said. "They just let you know they are excited about what the Rams done this year."

Rams legends Rosey Grier, Harold Jackson and Joe Sweet joined members of the team's staff to volunteer at the US Vets – Inglewood annual Veteran's Day Breakfast.

Salute to Service Week Presented by California Resources Corporation

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