I didn’t know Tarvaris Jackson. I didn’t get to chat with him in the locker room. Didn’t get to see him play much in person. Didn’t have the opportunity to go behind the curtain with the former Seahawks quarterback.
But in the wake of his tragic death Sunday night, I can write with confidence that he was one of the toughest athletes to ever suit up in Seattle. And we’ve had a lot of tough ones up here.
Jackson died after his car struck a tree and turned over a few miles outside of his native Montgomery, Alabama. The 36-year-old left behind his wife Lakitta and children Tarvaris, Takayla and Tyson.
It’s another case of an athlete leaving this world way too early — another reminder to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you whenever possible.
But if we’re talking about a legacy between the lines, Jackson’s was clear: Pain was no object.
Jackson played 15 games for the Seahawks in 2011 with a partially torn pectoral muscle. This would be a nuisance for a player of any position, but is particularly hindering for a man tasked with throwing the ball 30 times a game.
And yet, Jackson was still able to pass for 3,091 yards while completing 60.2% of his attempts. It was the best season of his career.
You have to be able to play hurt if you want to make it in the NFL. Jackson, however, seemed to play better hurt.
The Seahawks went 7-9 that season and missed the playoffs, but Jackson was 7-7 in the games he started. Given that the 49ers were 13-3 that year, a postseason berth was never really in play, but the contributions from “T-Jack” were still noteworthy.
Obviously, things changed the next season when Russell Wilson emerged as the starting quarterback. But Jackson’s work the year before made the Seahawks want to bring him back as a backup in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Did he see much action? No. Wilson has missed only two meaningful plays in his career. But Jackson was a viable option for a defensive juggernaut, and likely would have had success had he gotten on the field.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called him a “tremendously tough football player and competitive kid that battled for us” when the team re-signed Jackson in 2013. And on Monday the Seahawks tweeted that “T-Jack earned the respect of the organization and teammates with his competitiveness, toughness and professionalism.”
As was the case with former Huskies football coach Jim Lambright, who died last month, “tough” seems to be Jackson’s universal description. And when you play in a league composed of some of the toughest men in the world, that’s a pretty honorable tag.
Of course, Jackson’s legacy does have a significant blemish. In 2016 he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly pulling a gun on his wife. He was 33 at the time, and even though the charges were dropped, he never signed with another NFL team.
Baldwin tweeted: “Sad day. TJack showed love, real love. One of the realist I’ve ever known. Rest In Peace my brotha.”
And though he didn’t play much of a role in Seattle’s championship run, play the final series in the 43-8 win over Denver in the Super Bowl, and later got a ring.
Jackson finished his NFL career having played 10 seasons while tallying 7,263 passing yards and 39 touchdowns. He went 8-4 as a starter with the Vikings in 2007, but other than the 2011 season with the Seahawks, he served primarily in a backup role.
Is he a legend? No. But he was tough as hell, and it’s tough to see him go.