Receiver finally makes cut

Stampeders receiver Chris Jackson's best chance to show his wares in the opener is at returner. SUN...

Stampeders receiver Chris Jackson's best chance to show his wares in the opener is at returner. SUN MEDIA/Stuart Dryden

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:19 AM ET

Chris Jackson has been given his share of look-sees in the pro ranks.

Nothing, however, as good as he's getting right now with the Calgary Stampeders.

Which is why the wide receiver has an extra spring in his quick step.

Since finishing a stellar career at tiny Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., (enrolment 1,200), Jackson has bounced and bounced and bounced around hoping for a shot.

Last summer alone, he had cups of coffee with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars, the final stint only lasting one full day. He then spent half of the 2007 CFL season on the Toronto Argonauts practice roster.

Can't blame him for basking in the joy -- albeit briefly -- when he found out he had survived the final cuts at Stampeders camp.

"It felt great," Jackson said. "I just wanted a chance to show my talent and have an opportunity to play."

When Stampeders training camp opened, it wasn't hard to overlook Jackson.

Sure, the product of Florence, Ala., has size -- 6-ft.-2, 208 lb. -- and speed to go with an overflowing college resume. It's just that the Calgary receiver corps already has a plethora of proven talent and the incoming hopefuls included the likes of NFL second-round draft choice Tyrone Calico, a sibling of one-time world's fastest man Eddie Montgomery, CFL vet Nate Curry and others.

When the dust settled, though, Jackson was the one left standing, having put together a strong pre-season both receiving (eight catches for 101 yards and one touchdown) and returning punts.

"I just played hard and hoped in the end it would be enough to make the team," said Jackson, who'll turn 24 next month. "I didn't know how many yards I had. I just played football."

On the receivers depth chart, he still has a ways to go. Calgary is blessed with import pass catchers, having Jeremaine Copeland and Nik Lewis at the slots and Ken-Yon Rambo lining up at one wide-out position.

Jackson's best chance to show his wares when the Stamps open the season Thursday against the B.C. Lions is at returner. The audition during last weekend's pre-season tilt against the Leos went well -- he ran a couple of punts for 42 yards, including a 37-yard scamper.

"When he came, we knew he was a good returner because we'd seen tape of him and he was a great returner in college," said special teams coach Craig Dickenson. "We're hoping he'll develop into a returner at this level, and so far, so good. That game against B.C., he did everything we asked of him, caught the ball well and got it up field. He made the one big play, returning for 37 yards, broke a tackle early, spun over it and ran up the sidelines.

"I think the jury's still out on what direction we're gonna go in the return game, but he certainly helped his cause."

The opportunity is all Jackson has asked for since a standout time at Millsaps, a Division 3 school.

In his senior year, Jackson led all Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference receivers with 65 receptions for 693 yards and nine touchdowns. He became the second player in SCAC history to take two punts back for touchdowns in a single game and was conference special teams player of the year. At the Stampeders free-agent camp in Florida this winter, he ran the 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.36 seconds.

Still, receiving more than a cursory glance at the pro level against players from the large schools was hard, because of that stigma from not playing against the best in college.

"They look at you and think, 'You're from a small school and really didn't play against anyone,' " he said. "I've always said, if you can play, you can play no matter where you're playing."


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