ANDERSON – Never did a piece of clothing take on so much meaning to a multi-million dollar professional athlete.
D’Qwell Jackson is happy to tell the story of when he got some of his gear for the Colts’ 2014 training camp at Anderson University.
“I was joking the other day, talking to my girlfriend, and I’d never worn a team-issued shirt with a Lombardi Trophy on it,” said Jackson, who signed with the Colts this offseason.
He’s referring to the Colts’ camp T-Shirts given to each player and worn by many of the coaches during training camp workouts. On the front is “BTM” which is head coach Chuck Pagano’s often used “Build the Monster” mantra which he adopted upon his arrival in 2012.
On the back is the picture of the Lombardi Trophy that Jackson mentioned, with the word “Decide” just below it.
“It’s just one of those things. You look for things every single year, and we made a step, the next step last season and we all know what the expectations are this season, our own expectations,” said Pagano of the shirt. “We know what the outside expectations are, but we have our own. We’re chasing that Lombardi and that’s our goal.”
That's something very different to Jackson, who played his first seven seasons in Cleveland. In that time the Browns only won more than five games in a season once-2007-and in that season they didn't even made the playoffs. Rebuilding towards a Super Bowl was more the storyline when Jackson was in Cleveland than actually being in a position to get it.
So that's why this little bit of motivation on a shirt went a long way for the linebacker.
"It means so much at this point in my career," said Jackson. "It's definitely a great position for me to be in."
That's been reinforced over the past few months when Jackson joined the Colts for OTA's and now training camp. The switch in approach has been pronounced around the Colts-who have been one of the most successful NFL franchises over the past 15 years.
“I think it’s all those things that you mentioned. Attitude, it comes from the top. The leader, Chuck Pagano, he’s the same guy every day.," said Jackson of the reason the franchise has success. "He’s a genuine guy that preaches family and he walks it, and I think guys respect that."
Jackson also credited Pagano and the coaches ability to segment their attitude on and off the field to help create a better atmosphere for the player.
"If you’ve been any other place, it’s not a lot of that environment going on; it’s strictly a business atmosphere. But not here," said Jackson. "Here it’s business when it’s time for business, but it’s a family here and guys would run through a brick wall for the guys. I know I would for the short time I’ve been here.”
He won't have to do that specifically but he will have to tackle-which he did a lot of last season in Cleveland. Jackson was seventh in the NFL with 141 tackles a season ago and will team up this year on the inside with Jerrell Freeman, who led the Colts with 126 tackles a season ago.
"It makes my job easier and vice versa. They’ve got to pick their poison, whether you’re going to focus on Jerrell or focus on myself," said Jackson of working with Jerrell. "At the end, as long as the team’s winning, as long as we’re stopping that run, that’s why I’m here. That’s why I signed on here. We’re trying to take this team to the next level and if I can help do that, I will.
"Jerrell is going to be a big part of the future of this team and this year.”
As long as that future talk deals with a Lombardi Trophy-Jackson will be just fine.