(The latest in a continuing series examining former Maryland fullback Cory Jackson's path through the process of attempting to make an NFL team.)
The NFL combine gets underway this week in Indianapolis.
Cory Jackson won't be there. He thinks he has a pretty good idea why.
It came down to numbers. Not so much a limited interest in fullbacks --- Brigham Young's Manase Tonga, Kentucky's John Conner and Virginia's Rashawn Jackson all received invites.
No, it's because an attempt to quantify Jackson's four seasons at Maryland come down to 17 carries, 46 yards and two touchdowns. There's 29 receptions for 254 yards as a dump-off option out of the backfield, if someone cares to pay attention to that. If he's lucky, maybe his teams tackles last year earn a mention.
No matter how much of it pops up, it's not exactly stuff that jumps off the page.
"I tried to really not get caught up in the selfishness of it while I was at Maryland, but after the fact I'm starting to see the echoes of not touching the ball," Jackson said. "If people say 'He doesn't touch the ball, but is a good blocker,' you're probably not going to get as many chances and it will close some doors. It's aggravating."
And it makes the draft process just as much about making a sales pitch as providing a preview of on-field production.
Jackson wasn't a pure fullback when he arrived at Maryland. Fresh off a 1,000-yard season as a senior at University High in Morgantown, W.Va., it seemed plausible he could be more active than most fullbacks in Maryland's season once he got acclimated. At the end of his freshman season, he had four carries for 12 yards an a touchdown in the Champs Sports Bowl.
He'd never have more than two carries in a game again.
Maryland looked at Jackson as goal-line tailback in camp in 2008, but once the season arrived veered away from using the idea often.
Last season was more frustrating. Jackson was coming off a knee injury, and there wasn't much interest in giving up goal line carries to a fullback. Exacerbating matters was the 2-10 record the Terps compiled.
"I just feel I could have helped the team as well, which causes some of my resentment because I think of how bad our season went," Jackson said. "Things could have been different and I wish I could have done more. I feel I could have done more with the ball. Coaches have their own ideas."
The dearth of numbers didn't prevent Jackson from receiving a last-second invitation to the Senior Bowl. Once there, he worked with Detroit Lions fullbacks coach Sam Gash --- a guy known during his playing days for his blocking --- and demonstrated he could pick up an offense.
"Just being able to show I can learn the offense pretty quickly and that I'm not scared and won't shy away from contact is a big thing," Jackson said. "It was almost like a tryout. I was able to do that dirty work. He knows what it's like to do that."
Jackson knows his path to the NFL isn't based on carries. If he makes a roster, it'll be because he blocks well and is versatile enough to play on nearly every special teams unit.
But some history of carrying the ball would have helped. Instead, he's looking to improve other numbers. His training in Atlanta has helped him get his 40-yard time down to 4.75 seconds. Shave that time into the 4.6s --- not the easiest task for even an extremely fit 251-pounder --- and he figures he'll be making money somewhere.
He's not there yet, though.
"Sometimes, you've got to sell it," Jackson said. "I can sell the crazy country boy thing to these guys to let them know I'm a tough kid from West Virginia. It was like when I got to Maryland: 'I'm Cory Jackson, I play football and I like to hit people.' That was kind of my incoming statement and I think I lived up to it."
He's trying to do so again. He played in every game last season despite his lingering knee pain, but got through the Senior Bowl without a brace.
Jackson won't be in Indianapolis this week, an opportunity to meet with every NFL team lost. But there's still pro day and other chances to impress and prompt scouts to think of him as more than just a blocking back who happened to collect 17 scattered carries over his career.
"That's OK --- I think I can make it," Jackson said. "As long as they look into it a little deeper."