Former Trojan Austin Jackson has found his NFL home, as the offensive tackle was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the 18th overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night.
“Beyond blessed that the Miami Dolphins took this bet on me,” Jackson said via Instagram. “I’m excited to get to work and prove them right.”
Jackson was the Dolphins’ second first-round pick of this draft, and his assignment will be to protect their first: former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, a 2017 national champion, who was selected at No. 5 overall by Miami.
“It’s no pressure at all,” Jackson said of protecting a franchise quarterback in Tagovailoa. “I’m glad I’m with a great team and a team that believes in me, and I’m just really excited to get out there with the guys and build something special.”
Jackson was the fifth offensive lineman selected in this year’s draft.
As the youngest tackle in his draft class, Jackson will have room to grow with a Dolphins team that struggled to a 5-11 finish in 2019 — last place in the AFC East. Miami’s offense finished with the sixth-fewest total yards per game last season, including the fewest rushing yards per game with just 72.3 and the eighth-fewest points per game with 19.1.
“I’m excited to get down there and meet up with a great group of guys and start working and see where this thing takes us,” Jackson said in a video posted to the Dolphins’ Twitter.
Jackson appeared in all 39 games of his USC career, starting every game in his sophomore and junior years. He was named Pac-12 Offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance against Stanford in Week 2 of the 2019 season and made the 2019 All-Pac-12 First Team. Coming out of North Canyon High School in Phoenix, Jackson was the No. 35 overall recruit in the Class of 2017 as a four-star.
Jackson became the 82nd first-round draft pick from USC of all time, the second most of any university behind Ohio State. The two schools entered the evening tied at 81, but the Buckeyes jumped in front when defensive end Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah were drafted No. 2 and No. 3 overall, respectively.
Jackson’s first round selection should come as no surprise, as he was projected to be chosen on day one of the draft by many NFL analysts. While Jackson will likely be the only USC player selected Thursday, he is expected to join wide receiver and fellow Trojan Michael Pittman Jr. as 2020 draftees. Linebacker John Houston Jr., defensive lineman Christian Rector and offensive tackle Drew Richmond are also projected as potential late-round selections.