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Austin Jackson’s success started with mental toughness

The Miami Dolphins and Austin Jackson agreed on a new contract ahead of Week 14.

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

Austin Jackson inked a three-year extension with the Miami Dolphins earlier this week to start at right tackle for the foreseeable future. The former USC lineman has allowed two sacks in 12 games this season, and his nine hurries allowed rank fifth among all tackles with at least 315 pass-blocking snaps this season.

The Dolphins declined the former first-round pick’s fifth-year option after he played just 84 snaps in 2022. That said, Jackson is having career-year in coach Mike McDaniel’s system, anchoring an offensive line that allows just 1.5 sacks per game.

“So earlier in my career, I was the fifth tackle taken in the first round,” Jackson said on Thursday. “First-round draft pick. I had high expectations. I had high expectations and every time I didn’t perform, it was noted and highlighted. It was very much so highlighted, to say the least. But that just made me a better football player at the end of the day. I’m very tough. I understand this is football. There are certain things that are done in football.

“The only thing you can do is not take it too personal. So I just moved on from that, took what I needed to get better, and got better.”

Miami started Jackson at left tackle as a rookie. He struggled at times, allowing four sacks and 29 pressures in 848 snaps played. The 20-year-old rookie was one of three rookies starting on the offensive line, joining second-round pick Robert Hunt and fourth-round selection Solomon Kindley.

He was sandwiched between Liam Eichenberg and Michael Deiter as the starting left guard in 2021 and was penalized 12 times, allowing 41 hurries throughout 1,096 snaps.

McDaniel was named head coach ahead of the 2022 season and needed just one conversation to believe Jackson could turn the corner as a starting tackle.

“All I took from my interaction with him is a very ambitious, goal-oriented, driven professional athlete,” McDaniel said of his first time meeting Jackson. “Then I kind of try to put myself in people’s shoes, and it’s never going to draw tears of sorrow, but I think it’s a shame that people overlook – it’s great to be picked in the first round as a 20-year-old. Awesome. There’s also a lot of burden with that.

“In that, every person that gets drafted every year in the first round, I know one thing they don’t want to be. Everybody wants to be their best. So then you look at the film and you match it with the person that you’re meeting. I think it’s important to treat every individual with full trust, because I’m tough enough if they break trust. You treat them with full trust and give them the opportunity.”

Despite road bumps early, McDaniel spent time with Jackson once he arrived in Miami, and provided him with everything he needed to succeed at right tackle.

“[McDaniel] definitely took the time to really see who I was as a player with his own eyes,” Jackson said. “I appreciate that. He really just took the time to sit down with me, sit down and talk with the team. He’s given me every opportunity and every tool to be great, so I’m thankful for that. It makes me really work hard, and I appreciate that.”

Jackson’s extension will keep him in Miami through the 2026 season.

“I’m excited and extremely grateful,” he said. “If you know my journey here, it’s been one with a lot of, I don’t know, I guess stuff to remember. There’s been a lot that went on, but I’m just glad that I got a place that allowed me to work on my craft and get better every day. I’m just looking forward to keep doing that.””