Jayhawk Insider: Building the program one sole at a time
By: Adam Sullivan
Shoes can represent a fashion statement, a style, a personality and more importantly a story. For Kansas defensive backs coach Chevis Jackson, his shoe collection checks all of those boxes. His favorite pair is evident in the way he speaks of them, they’re stories of where he came from and how far he has gone.
“My 1994 Chicago 1’s,” Jackson said. “Those are easily my favorite. They’re the holy grail of shoes. They were Michael Jordan’s shoe, they’re a pair that looks better when they’re beat up. With most shoes you can always get the newer model of them, but these have soul to them.”
Jackson was born in Mobile, Alabama where football was king. Like most kids, Jackson quickly fell in love with the sport but his new hobby would soon follow.
“My older cousin had a ton of sneakers when I was a kid,” Jackson explained. “I remember always seeing them and thinking how cool they were. I’d put them on and they’d be too big. I always remember thinking if I were able to make enough money, I was going to buy a bunch of shoes one day.”
After becoming a standout on the gridiron in high school, Jackson decided to take his talents to Baton Rouge, LA and play for Les Miles at Louisiana State University. As a Tiger, Jackson made an impact leading LSU to an SEC title (2007) and eventually a BCS national title (2007). Jackson was named first-team all-SEC and his dream of playing in the National Football League was just one step away.
Jackson became the 68th pick in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft selected by the Atlanta Falcons. With his dreams of reaching the NFL complete, Jackson now had the finances to stock his other passion. As his shoe game improved, Jackson made it a point to remember where he came from now that he had the ability to help others.
“Playing in the NFL allowed me to give back to the community,” Jackson said. “I started the ‘Fresh Steps’ project which gave sneakers to kids who couldn’t afford them. Shoes make an impact, they make an impression and I wanted to help kids find their own voice with sneakers.
After Jackson’s time with the Falcons ended in 2009, he’d go on to have stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2010), New England Patriots (2010), Denver Broncos (2010) and the Carolina Panthers (2011). As the NFL chapter of his life ended, a new door opened. In 2013 Jackson became a graduate assistant for the University of South Alabama marking his first crack at coaching.
“I never really had an interest in becoming a coach growing up,” Jackson stated. “The goal was always the NFL. But after that ended I looked back and thought it would be the next best thing. I was always helping out the younger guys as a player and thought I could make an impact. I wouldn’t change the way it all played out and am happy where I’m at.”
During the 2013-14 seasons with South Alabama, he helped the Jaguars earn a bowl bid for the first time in program history, a bid to the 2014 Camellia Bowl. South Alabama’s defense ranked second in the Sun Belt in both scoring defense and total defense in 2013.
Following South Alabama, Jackson returned to LSU as a graduate assistant in 2015 under head coach Les Miles. LSU went on to finish the 2015 season with a 9-3 record and a victory in the Texas Bowl over Texas Tech.
The chance to learn under the same coach he played for was something Jackson would cherish. The knowledge he gained prepared him for the next step but the football IQ isn’t the biggest thing Jackson took away from Miles.
“Being around him as a player was incredible,” Jackson said. “You obviously knew who coach Miles was. He won a lot of games and is very respected. Coming back as a coach was different because I was now on the other side. The things he taught me I still use to this day. The thing he really preaches though and makes an impact with is life lessons.”
Following LSU, the next chapter for Jackson opened up in Muncie, Indiana at Ball State University as the Cardinals hired Jackson to coach defensive backs.
While at Ball State, Jackson was named the 2017 Mid-American Conference Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports.com, serving as the lead recruiter for the Cardinals while also coaching the defensive backs.
When Les Miles accepted the head football coaching position at KU, Miles knew he one man he wanted on his staff.
“Chevis is one of the top young coaches in the game,” said Miles. “He works hard to make a positive impact both on and off the field with the student-athletes he works with. He knows what it takes to be successful on the greatest stage in college football and will help instill that mindset to our program.”
Jackson is excited about his future with KU and hopes his love for not only football, but shoes will help him resonate with the kids he recruits.
As his shoe collection, which sits at over 300 pairs, continues to grow with soles, Jackson hopes he can help Kansas football grow with soul.
“This community is great, they get behind their sports teams,” said Jackson. “We are all excited about this. We’re going to build a program, the talent is there. We have good players, the only direction to go is up.”