Sophomore defensive tackle Desmond Jackson may not be the tallest player on the defensive line, but he is certainly the strongest.
When he arrived on campus in the spring of 2011, his teammates were shocked to see what he was capable of bench pressing.
At that time he could bench 400 pounds. Now, he is benching 525 pounds, more than any other member of the team.
“I remember coming in and seeing that someone from the 6 o’clock group had done 20-something reps, and I was like, ‘Wow, who’s this dude?’” junior offensive lineman Trey Hopkins said. “And from then on he just got going.”
Jackson’s teammates call him “Tank.” He has certainly earned that name.
As a freshman, he appeared in all 13 games, recording 10 tackles and two sacks. His first start for the Longhorns was against New Mexico this season. So far in his sophomore campaign, he has three tackles for a loss.
Head coach Mack Brown has been pushing the Longhorns to be more physical than ever this season. As a member of this dynamic defensive line, Jackson has played a significant role.
“I feel we’ve been really physical on defense, which is something that we’re trying to improve on both sides of the ball,” Brown said. “In fact, we’ve become a much more physical football team than we’ve been in the last five or six years."
Jackson stands at 6-foot-1 but competes for a spot with defensive tackles who are all taller than him.
His strength hasn’t stopped him from getting teased by his teammates. But he’s an underclassman, so it comes with the territory.
“I got picked on the first day I stepped on campus,” Jackson said. “Nobody’s really seen a short guy like me come through since Casey Hampton came through.”
Hampton, who now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is the same height as Jackson. Hampton has been selected for the Pro Bowl five times and was a first-round draft pick in 2001. Being the short guy on the line can’t be too much of a disadvantage.
Hopkins said Jackson’s height is beneficial.
“Being a shorter guy, Desmond has a naturally low pad level,” Hopkins said. “He does even better than that by keeping his knees bent with very good leg drive, and he just has a naturally quick get off. He’s very good at keying in on snaps. He’s a strong guy and uses that to his advantage.”
Fellow defensive tackle Chris Whaley said Jackson always has a smile on his face and is a leader of the team, even though he is only a sophomore.
“He’s a great player and a great person,” Whaley said. “He practices hard and he plays hard. He has a great personality.”
Last year, Jackson’s steady improvement was obvious. He had two tackles in each of the final three games he played in and had sacks in the last two games, including the Holiday Bowl. This season, he is earning more playing time on the defensive line.
His strength and drive will help the defensive line take on the high-powered West Virginia offensive line and Heisman hopeful quarterback, Geno Smith.
With a nickname like Tank, what else would you expect?