Defensive back Lamar Jackson sees his teammates as more than just teammates. They’re his brothers. That means when the older members of ‘Lockdown U’ offer advice, Jackson listens.
“We’re tight,” Jackson said. “It’s not the little things where they say ‘do this’ or ‘do that.’ It’s just a brotherhood. “
That also means Jackson and his teammates hang out quite a bit. They enjoy playing video games like Madden NFL and NBA 2K16. They go to movies and out to dinner “just like stuff you’d do at home with your brothers,” Jackson said.
It’s not unusual to see teammates form close bonds. The Nebraska secondary seems special in a unique way though. It all started with cornerbacks coach Brian Stewart.
“I mean, every Thursday we eat at Coach Stew’s house,” Jackson said. “On a personal level, we’re all close and hang out outside of football. I feel it’s a brotherhood because we look out for each other. We can trust each other. Everybody expects you to do great things. Coach Stew is the one that leads the ship.”
And those Thursday night dinners are important for Stewart too.
“I just believe we are a family,” Stewart said. “When I recruited a lot of them, I told their parents I would take care of them. If I’m going to church, I call and make sure they’re going to church. If I’m going to have something to eat on Thursdays, they come over. They know my kids. They know my wife. I think that’s important.”
With Stewart leading the way, players like Jackson have grown close to his teammates. Part of that is knowing what each guy likes to do in his free time. For cornerback Chris Jones? It’s all about the video games. So much so, he might just be one of the best “gamers” on the team.
“Everybody has their days but within the secondary, it’s Chris [Jones],” Jackson said. “He’s competitive just like on the football field. He takes all of that personal – video games and everything.”
Jackson isn’t sure he’s ever beaten Jones in a video game before but he knows what will happen if he does.
“He’s going to take it personal,” Jackson said. “If you beat him, you’re going to have to play him until he wins. If he loses and you start bragging, he’s going to take it personal. He’ll say, ‘You have to play me again.’ And if he lost fair and square, he’s going to take it to another sport.”
Jackson compares Jones’ competitiveness off the field to his competitiveness on the field.
“It’s friendly but it’s just like all [defensive backs],” Jackson said. “We’re out there competing with each other.”
As for Jackson, he’s a little bit more laid back. He calls himself “lazy” but only in the sense that he’d prefer to lay down, relax and watch a TV series on Netflix. A current favorite is The Blacklist.
He also says he might be the comedic relief of the secondary.
“Just being younger, I’m more outgoing,” Jackson said. “I’ve got my little moods but nothing crazy. I’m always the one laughing and joking around. Sometimes too much but I’m the friendly one.”
Stewart is also big on letting his players be just who they are. With that in mind, he makes a point to check in on them regularly so they know he’s there if they need him.
“They’re young guys,” Stewart said. “They like to talk and I don’t want them to think I don’t care anything about them, especially because I do. I really do. They know my family because they’re around them. We talk about my daughter playing volleyball. I just think getting the opportunity to see me outside of being a coach has helped them.”
And while Stewart is flattered that the secondary sees him as the one building the culture of brotherhood, he actually credits that to head coach Mike Riley.
“You go in [the players’ lounge], they’re playing pool and video games,” Stewart said. “It’s just great. I think a lot of it is Coach Riley’s personality. It’s a ‘put your arms around you’ personality so they like being around him because he might put his arm around them or hit you on the back and ask you questions. I think that whole environment helps tremendously.”
Whether it’s Riley, Stewart or a little bit of both, they can feel good about creating something special within the secondary. Jackson and his teammates may call themselves ‘Lockdown U’ on the field. But off the field? They just call themselves brothers.
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.