Former Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, whose toughness as a starter to play through injury in 2011 and willingness to adapt to a backup role when the team won the Super Bowl in the 2013 season endeared him to teammates and coaches alike, has died in a car accident at age 36.
Jackson played four seasons in two stints with Seattle as part of a 10-year NFL career. He was killed in a single-vehicle crash at 8:50 p.m. Sunday roughly seven miles from his native Montgomery, Ala., according to a news release from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
The release said Jackson was driving a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro that left the roadway, struck a tree and overturned. Jackson was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
An ALEA spokesman said via email no further details were available as state troopers continue to investigate the accident.
Jackson was serving as the quarterbacks coach at Tennessee State University and the school’s sports information department confirmed the news.
The Seahawks also confirmed the news in a tweet in which the team said it was “stunned and heartbroken to learn of the tragic passing of legend Tarvaris Jackson. T-Jack earned the respect of the organization and teammates with his competitiveness, toughness and professionalism. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.”
Tributes immediately began pouring in on social media for Jackson, who was Seattle’s starter in 2011 when he gutted out a pectoral muscle injury to play in all but one game. He returned to serve as the backup for Russell Wilson from 2013 to 2015.
“TJack … you will be missed. Praying for your family … Love you man,” Wilson tweeted.
Tweeted Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: “Tarvaris Jackson was a beloved teammate, competitor, and Seahawk. He will be deeply missed. So heartbroken by the news of his passing and sending our condolences to his family and friends. We love you forever @7tjackson”
B.J. Daniels, who served on the practice squad, as a third quarterback and receiver/special-teamer with the Seahawks from 2013-15, tweeted: “Tarvaris Jackson was my mentor! He played the game with dignity and taught me how to use my MIND to manipulate the defense. When my family couldn’t make it to Seattle for holidays, it was TJACK who invited me to his house to celebrate with his family!”
And added receiver Doug Baldwin, who entered the league the year Jackson joined the Seahawks in 2011: “Sad day. TJack showed love, real love. One of the realist I’ve ever known. Rest In Peace my brotha.”
Jackson played 59 games in an NFL career that spanned from 2006 to 2015. He started 34 games, including 14 with Seattle in 2011, Carroll’s second season as coach of the Seahawks.
Seattle signed Jackson in July 2011 to a two-year contract to compete with Charlie Whitehurst as the successor to Matt Hasselbeck, whom the team had decided not to re-sign.
Jackson, who started 20 games for Minnesota from 2006-10, won the job and started 14 games that season. The Seahawks were 7-7 in those games and 7-9 overall. He suffered a pectoral-muscle strain against the Giants on Oct. 9 and after missing one game — a 6-3 defeat at Cleveland — played with the injury the rest of the season, taking over in relief of Whitehurst in Seattle’s next game.
“He embodies everything that our team is,” left tackle Russell Okung once said of Jackson, whose willingness to tough out the 2011 season and play through the injury earned him enduring respect in the locker room.
Seattle went on to win five of its last eight games that season with Jackson as the starter during a stretch when the Legion of Boom defense began to mature. Many around the team have long pointed to that stretch as key in the rise of a group that would win the Super Bowl two years later.
The Seahawks, though, then signed Matt Flynn and drafted Wilson following the 2011 season, and Jackson was traded to Buffalo.
He never played for the Bills, and the following year was cut by Buffalo. He quickly re-signed with the Seahawks to back up Wilson, a move met with great enthusiasm in the locker room.
“We thought of Tarvaris as a tremendously tough football player and competitive kid that battled for us,” Carroll said in 2013 when the team brought back Jackson. “We’re a little better than we were in those days, so we bring him back with the thought that he’ll make this a very competitive situation.”
Jackson never started another game but served as the backup for Wilson the next three seasons, signing one-year contracts to return in 2014 and 2015.
Jackson got to play the final series of Seattle’s 43-8 Super Bowl victory over Denver in 2014, a season in which he appeared in three games, completing 10 of 13 passes and throwing a touchdown in a September blowout of Jacksonville.
He returned to play the 2014 and 2015 seasons, appearing in one game in 2014 and four in 2015.
In the 2014 season, he earned a reputation as something of a good-luck charm for coin flips. Seattle memorably won tosses to get the ball first and win overtime games against Denver in the regular season and then against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, a victory that propelled the Seahawks to their third Super Bowl.
Each time, Jackson was sent out to handle the duties so Wilson could concentrate on talking to coaches about plans for overtime. Each time, Jackson watched as opponents made the call, with the coin instead going in Seattle’s favor.
“That guy, I don’t want to break his luck, but I mean, that guy is something else, man,” Wilson said after the NFC title game victory over Green Bay.
The Seahawks decided to go in a different direction with their backup spot in 2016, signing undrafted rookie free agent Trevone Boykin and also going with Jake Heaps as a backup in training camp, though Carroll had at one point said the team hoped to re-sign Jackson.
Jackson had hoped to keep playing.
But an incident in June 2016, when he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly pulling a gun on his wife, effectively ended his career, Jackson said.
The charges were dropped, but Jackson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 2018 that he felt no team was willing to sign him after the charge.
“It hurt me a whole lot,” Jackson said then. “It’s no doubt I would have got a call (from an NFL team) to at least get a chance to go compete for a backup job, but it didn’t happen because of that. Once they put my name up, of course that’s going to come up and (teams said), ‘We don’t want to deal with it.’ “
Jackson began pursuing a coaching career and worked at the high-school level in 2016 and 2017. He became a quality-control and quarterbacks coach in 2018 at his alma mater, Alabama State, and then moved to Tennessee State in 2019 as offensive analyst and quarterbacks coach. Jackson received a degree in psychology from Troy State in 2014.
Jackson is survived by his wife Lakitta and three children, Tarvaris, Takayla and Tyson.