As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approached last weekend, USC football fans felt an increasing sense of optimism about the status of junior cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. Jackson began attending classes for the spring semester and was regularly seen on campus and in the USC athletic facilities over the past week. The lack of chatter about a draft decision soothed many into believing that Jackson would be returning to the football team for his senior season in 2017.
However, on Monday — the final day for eligible players to declare for the NFL Draft — Jackson announced via social media that he would be forgoing his senior season to enter the 2017 NFL Draft. Jackson’s announcement included an open letter addressed to the Trojan Family regarding his decision.
Jackson, a unanimous All-American in 2016, declared for the draft after a junior season in which he won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back and helped lead USC to its first Rose Bowl victory since 2009.
With his decision, Jackson joins junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and junior guard Damien Mama as one of three Trojans who will be forgoing their senior season to enter the draft in April.
“Thank you to the Trojan Family for embracing me and my family the way you guys did! Being a Trojan was the best time of my life and I’ll never ever forget my time here at USC,” Jackson said. “I hope you continue to support me throughout the rest of my career.”
A triple threat for the Trojans, Jackson was the ultimate Swiss army knife during his collegiate career. In addition to reeling in five interceptions during his Thorpe Award-winning junior season with USC, Jackson finished his Trojan football career with 39 receptions for 628 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns.
Over his career, Jackson established himself as arguably the top kick returner in USC football history. In 2016, Jackson was the only player in the nation to return multiple kickoffs and punts for touchdowns; he took two punts and two kickoffs to the house for a total of four return touchdowns his junior year, and he finished with eight in his collegiate career.
Jackson leaves USC with the all-time record in kickoff return yardage (2,141 yards).
His football portfolio at USC is flooded with iconic moments, all of which contributed to turning the Trojans back into a nationally relevant football program.
USC’s run to a Rose Bowl Trophy was sparked by a plethora of big plays from Jackson. His interception on Oct. 8 against then-No. 21 Colorado is one that will live in highlight reels forever. He picked a pass from Colorado quarterback Steven Montez almost completely out of bounds, but then inexplicably found a way to spread his legs in mid-air to get a foot in-bounds for the interception. The play built up acclaim for Jackson and earned him hype for the Thorpe Award he would eventually win.
His two-interception effort against No. 4 Washington on Nov. 12 helped propel USC to its biggest win of the regular season and get the Trojans back in the national spotlight.
While Jackson’s football resume is extensive, perhaps the greatest exhibition of his dynamic abilities came against Notre Dame on Nov. 26.
Against the Fighting Irish, Jackson scored a total of three touchdowns in three different ways: He had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 52-yard touchdown reception.
Jackson’s final performance in the Coliseum may have been his most impressive, as the Trojans defeated Notre Dame, 45-27, in the season-finale rivalry game.
From his first game at the Coliseum in September 2014 against Fresno State, in which he caught a touchdown as a true freshman, to his heroic finale against the Irish, Jackson gave Trojan fans memorable plays on a regular basis.
And when Jackson wasn’t cementing himself into Trojan football lore, he almost casually built up a winning legacy as a track and field athlete for USC. Jackson was the Pac-12 champion in long jump in 2015 and 2016. He missed football spring practices in 2016 as he attempted to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team to compete in Rio as a long jumper.
But beyond the innumerable merits, the All-Pac-12 honors, the remarkable interceptions and even the Thorpe Award, Jackson cherished one accolade above all during his time as a Trojan: bringing the Rose Bowl Trophy back to Heritage Hall.
“It’s been an incredible three years playing for one of the great traditions in college football,” Jackson wrote about his collegiate career. “I made the best decision of my life when I chose to come to USC, and finishing it off with a Rose Bowl win is one of the best ways I could have ever hoped for it to end.”