NFA coach AJ Jackson up to speed
For the past 25 years, National Football Academies has earned a well-deserved reputation for developing top-flight quarterbacks that have gone on to play in the NFL and the highest levels of the college game.
But there is much more to football than throwing bubble screens and fade routes, and that’s where NFA Coach Andrew “AJ” Jackson comes in. A former NFL running back for the Houston Oilers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers following collegiate stops at Southern California and Iowa State, Jackson is NFA’s go-to guy when up and coming running backs want to improve their craft.
“I specialize in developing running backs,” said Jackson, who has been working with NFA for five years. “I’m based out of California, but I go from Orlando to Seattle and everywhere in between and just teach them the basics. For the guys that are more advanced, we record them, see where they are with their mechanics, their cuts, things like that, and just try to make them better.”
As the CEO and President of A thru Z Sports in Los Angeles, Jackson has developed a training program designed to help all football players get bigger, stronger and faster. “I started working with quarterbacks the first year I was with NFA and that expanded to all positions,” Jackson said. “But my specialty is developing running backs.”
Having played in the NFL and college gives Jackson a huge edge over most other running back coaches. “It helps out tremendously,” he said. “By playing at all levels, it’s helped me to see different things and what to read for, if the defense is going inside zone or outside zone, the positioning of the defensive tackles and things like that. Jump cuts, and I can see if a kid is off balance and he’s not getting the maximum power from his cuts or he’s too long or he’s taking too long coming out of his cuts.”
While he spends most of his time training running backs, Jackson thrives on helping all NFA campers improve their speed. In today’s fast-paced game, the faster you are the better.
“You have to put speed at the top of the list now because you have so many offenses now that run the zone read,” Jackson said. “You have to be fast, you have to be able to hit it and press the hole and be at full speed by the time you get to the hole. On the defensive side, you’re looking at linebackers now that naturally are run stoppers, but you have to be able to flip your hips, run, get up field, drop back into coverage. It’s basically almost a hybrid type of a player, and you have to have the speed to stay on the field for all the plays.”
Jackson’s knack for helping football players increase their speed has paid off big this year. Two players he’s been training – Shay Fields and Ajene Harris – have already received scholarships to play for the Southern Cal Trojans next season. “It makes me feel good because they both get to live out their dream and go to a school they really want to go to,” Jackson said. “I’m just happy to be a part of their journey.”