Edwin Jackson to be honored by Colts for his lasting impact

Edwin Jackson #53 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Those fortunate to have known Edwin Jackson were struck by his ever-present smile, infectious optimism and commitment to using his platform as a member of the NFL community to reach out and make a difference.

He inspired and motivated, and made you want to do more. Implored you to do more.

“He talked about that a lot and I feel the same way,’’ said Anthony Walker, who grew close to Jackson while sharing the Indianapolis Colts’ linebackers room last season. “We’re here for a reason, to be able to use our gifts and spread light into the world.

“It was just understanding we have a platform here. It was our duty to give back to the younger kids, the younger generation. He was always there. He was a big advocate.’’

So many Colts were impacted.

But so many never had the opportunity to meet the player who’ll be remembered Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. In fact, 23 of the 53 players on the active roster never called Edwin Jackson a teammate. Frank Reich and the vast majority of his staff weren’t able to tap into his potential.

They arrived after that numbing, early-morning Feb. 4 when Jackson and his Uber driver, Jeffrey Monroe, were struck and killed by a drunk driver on I-70.

The Colts will celebrate Jackson’s too-brief life – he was 26 – by affixing an “EJ” decal on players’ helmets and coaches will wear an “EJ “lapel pin. Jackson’s parents and nine siblings will be on hand. A video tribute will be shown. The team is donating $25,000 to the Edwin Jackson 53 Foundation.

To ensure everyone understood Edwin Jackson’s legacy – including the nearly two dozen players who never knew him – Reich yielded the floor to Matthias Farley at Monday’s team meeting. The veteran safety was one of Jackson’s closest friends.

“He got up and talked about it,’’ Reich said. “Just talked about his passion and energy.

“I think the guys are appreciative to wear the decal to honor him.’’

General manager Chris Ballard was on the receiving end of the call with the news that would shake the Jackson family to its core and impact a franchise. He and David Thornton, the Colts’ director of player engagement, authored a text that would inform the team of what had occurred.

Ballard’s relationship with Jackson was both brief and lasting.

“He was a great kid, great to be around, great for his teammates, great for the community,’’ he said. “Everything he stood for is what we want to stand for.’’

Having Farley address the team, Ballard added, “was a pretty powerful moment . . . because Matthias and Edwin were very close and Matthias gave a pretty powerful, strong message about everything Edwin stood for and it’s what we want our players to stand for and I think it’s important that they know . . . he cared not only about football but also about is teammates, loved his family and he loved the community and he (understood) he had a stage to share and could share with others everything that he stood for.’’

Jackson spent a few weeks on the Colts’ practice squad in 2015, then emerged as a major contributor the following season. He appeared in all 16 games, starting eight, and finished third on the team with 61 tackles.

Jackson missed the 2017 season with an injury, but had made a full recovery and was poised to be a part of the team’s reset-2018.

Then, Feb. 4.

“Man, that was so tough to deal with,’’ Walker said, slowly shaking his head. “It never gets easier. I was more hurt for his family. That is a very close-knit, big family.

“I was hurting for him.’’

Mention Edwin Jackson’s name in the Colts’ locker room, though, and eyes light up.

“Many more than one Edwin Jackson memory,’’ Andrew Lucks said. “I think one of the great nicknames, ‘Pound Cake.’ He was a happy, happy, happy man. He was a joy to be around.

“I think a lot of guys that know him in this locker room keep him alive in their heads and in their souls. I certainly find myself thinking about him at different times and he was such a positive member of this team. He was a joy and an honor to play with and be around.’’

Walker’s reaction whenever someone mentions . . . Edwin Jackson?

“Just his smile, his passion, his alertness,’’ he said. “He was just happy to be here, living out his dream. That’s all he wanted. He just wanted to play football.

“You talk to him all day, and he just wanted to talk ball and how blessed he was to be here. He never took that for granted.’’

Click here to read a moving article written by Edwin’s brother, Adam.

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