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How Frisman Jackson's playing days influence the way he coaches wide receivers
Carolina's wideouts coach was once a college quarterback, which gives him a unique perspective. 
By Myles Simmons May 26, 2020

There's a corner of the internet that uses Frisman Jackson's name as a cautionary tale.

Back in 2005, the current Panthers wide receivers coach — then a wideout for the Browns — exploded onto the scene with a career game, piling up eight receptions for 128 yards with a touchdown in a season-opening loss to the Bengals.

"I was the highest one-week pickup in fantasy football history," Jackson recalled recently.

But after making just one catch for 11 yards the next week, the opposite happened.

"I was the highest dropped player in the history of fantasy football," Jackson continued. "So you would think after the 2005 season, that would be the end of it — you wouldn't hear about it again. But however long it's been, 15 years later, I'm still hearing about, 'Don't be a Frisman Jackson.'"

That may be the most notable aspect of Jackson's four-year playing career, during which he totaled 40 receptions for 490 yards and that lone touchdown against the Bengals. Still, that's not bad for an undrafted receiver out of Western Illinois.

But Jackson has since been able to parlay what he learned as a player into a successful career as a wide receivers coach at both the college and pro level. He's shared stints with head coach Matt Rhule at both Temple and Baylor, giving Jackson a good sense of how Rhule will run the football operation in Carolina.

"He's one of the smartest football coaches I've ever been around. He knows all the positions. He tries to act like he doesn't, but he does," Jackson said.

"I appreciate his knowledge of the game, and I've learned so much football in the five years that I've worked with him. It's unbelievable the amount of football I've learned, even outside of the normal offense or defense. It's how to manage the game, how to manage a team."

Seven years before joining Rhule's staff at Temple, Jackson got his start in coaching at Western Illinois, where he finished his college career as a wideout. But before that, Jackson was a quarterback at Northern Illinois. Though by his admission, he wasn't a very good one.

"Well, I like to say I was a quarterback. I don't know if my coaches from college would agree with me," Jackson said with a laugh.

And he knows why he had to switch positions even to have a chance as a pro.

"When you're playing terrible at quarterback, you can't hide from it," said Jackson, who was 109-of-259 for 1,327 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions in 21 games. "I was playing so bad that they said, 'You know what? It's about time for you to move.'"

While Jackson admits there's a part of him that wishes he would've changed positions sooner — "I probably would've gotten drafted and played 15 years in the NFL," he joked — that quarterback experience has helped him in his current career.

"I'm always looking at it through the lens of the quarterback. I coach the guys up as if they're playing the quarterback position," Jackson said. "'Hey, here's what the quarterback is thinking, here's where the quarterback's read is, here's why he's doing this.' So I think it gives me that different perspective, and I think the guys appreciate that."

As far as the wideouts he's now coaching, Jackson believes he has a talented group. Though it's tougher to build relationships with players over a screen during the virtual offseason program, Jackson coached Robbie Anderson and Keith Kirkwood at Temple. The Panthers signed the duo in April, and those previous connections should help both the position coach and the group at large.

"If I get going, and I get after them, and I get coaching how I coach — (Anderson or Kirkwood) can go in the locker room and be like, 'Hey man, don't take it personally. This is how he coaches. He's going to be demanding of us. He's going to have expectations of this is how we're going to get it done. It's not going to be grades; it's going to be black and white,'" Jackson said. "Both those guys understand how I am. They understand my personality."

If there's one trait Jackson sees throughout the receiving corps that excites him, it's speed. Having worked with Anderson before, Jackson wants to bring out the best of the 27-year-old.

"He can run. He can absolutely fly, and I know he's hungry. I know he wants to be one of the best receivers in the game," said Jackson, who reiterated their previous connection. "I can talk to him I want to talk to him, and he's not going to be like, 'Where the heck is this coming from?' He knows how I am.

"But just the potential he has — I think he still has the potential to be a great player, a great receiver in his league. I'm anxious to get my hands on him again and try to help develop him and get to the point where he wants to be."

Jackson is also inheriting DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel, and from what Jackson has seen from both in his film study, there's a lot to like.

"I think DJ Moore has some of the best hands that I've seen on tape. He's got strong hands. He's competitive," Jackson said. "You see some things in there, you're like, 'Wow, man, this guy can do some really good things.' And same thing with Curtis, man Curtis can fly — he can absolutely run.

"Hopefully those guys are just hungry to be really good players in this league. And I think I can get them to the point where they can look back and say, 'Man, I really developed I really learned a lot of football under Coach Jackson.'"

While the entire league is limited to virtual coaching sessions right now, Jackson is looking forward to getting all his wideouts on the practice field because he thinks each one brings something unique to the offense.

"I really feel really good about the group that I have, just sitting in meetings with them being in meetings with them, just hearing him talk — I think they're anxious to learn football," Jackson said. "They're anxious to get out there and show us what they can do."

Jackson coached at Baylor, Tennessee Titans, Temple, N.C. State, Northern Illinois, Akron and Western Illinois after an NFL career with the Browns.

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