(The latest in a series following former Maryland fullback Cory Jackson through the NFL Draft process)
The setting is familiar, finally.
The two months of training in Atlanta are over. Cory Jackson is back in College Park, arriving back in his home for the last four years just in time to see the clean up following some civil disturbances in the way of the basketball team's defeat of Duke.
"It looked pretty nuts," he said. "It's probably something I didn't need to be at, that's for sure."
Certainly not with his big day coming.
For the most touted of pro prospects, the NFL Combine in Indianapolis is usually the high-profile date on the calendar. All 32 teams have scouts in attendance for professional football's answer to a meat market.
But that doesn't cover everyone. For guys like Jackson, who play fullback and will probably earn a camp invite and perhaps a roster spot based on their ability to contribute on special teams, the chance to attend the combine is elusive.
That means all the time invested in training gets funneled into faring well on one particular afternoon in a return to campus.
Jackson --- along with Chris Turner, Nolan Carroll and about a dozen others --- will be on the spot Wednesday afternoon. Some scouts will be assembled, more than a few likely to take a look at tackle Bruce Campbell. But there will be some spillover; why make a trip just to see one guy?
But while Campbell assured himself of a healthy contract with his combine work, Jackson enjoys no such luxury.
And so Jackson waits. He'll meet with a representative from the Miami Dolphins today. He'll talk to a professor about the independent study he's working on to wrap up his degree.
Mostly, though, there's time to look ahead.
"I'm trying to stay calm," Jackson said. "It is a little nerve-wracking, but I've been dealing with it pretty well. It's a lot in one day. I have to really be on all at once. You've got the 40, your shuttle, vertical leap, bench press, all that stuff. I'm not used to doing that all at one time. It's going to be a big challenge."
There are things he'll have going in his favor. Turner, his old roommate, will be throwing passes to Jackson, and their familiarity should help each other look better to scouts.
Either way, there will be some relief once it is over with. Jackson might kick back with a trip to wing night at Hard Times Cafe. He'll be sure to enjoy his birthday later this week. And he and his agent will soon be trying to generate interest and interviews with more teams once there are actual numbers to put next to his name.
"It's going to be a good feeling no matter what just to get it done," Jackson said. "Hopefully, I'll surprise myself with some really good numbers. There's a little bit of stress there in pushing to get better numbers, so maybe I can run quicker and get a couple extra reps. Hopefully the adrenaline will kick in."
Ultimately, all the attempts to remain calm can only do so much good. Jackson, like a lot of his old teammates, is on the spot tomorrow.
After all of his training, it's finally all on him to help establish his career trajectory.
"It's just a matter of getting comfortable and thinking things through without overthinking," Jackson said. "In the end you have to get out there and run, get out there and catch, get out there and bench and do the things the way you know how to."