Edwin Jackson was never just handed his opportunities — he had to earn them.
If he wanted a spot on Georgia Southern's football team, he had to tryout just to be a walk-on.
If he wanted a shot at roster spot in the National Football League, he'd have to do it as an undrafted college free agent.
Jackson took advantage at both levels of his football career, eventually parlaying those opportunities into a starting job with the Indianapolis Colts.
And although his life was tragically cut short just more than a couple weeks ago, Jackson's memory, and his legacy, is certainly always going to live on through his own foundation, the Edwin Jackson 53 Foundation, as well as the Edwin Jackson Memorial Scholarship.
And, this week, Georgia Southern's football program announced that its walk-on tryout program — the same one Jackson utilized to earn a spot on the squad in 2011 — will be named in Jackson's honor.
The team will hold its inaugural Edwin Jackson Memorial Walk-On Tryouts Feb. 27, according to a team press release.
"In memory of Edwin Jackson and the mark that he left in so many peoples lives, we wanted to take the first step in honoring him by naming our walk-on tryouts after him," Georgia Southern head coach Chad Lunsford said in the release. "Edwin went down the hardest path possible here at Southern to earn some unbelievable results. He went from a walk-on tryout participant, to a spot on the team, to playing time, to a starter and leader and finally, a captain and Sun Belt champion. He then did it all again, signing as an NFL undrafted free agent, earned a spot on an NFL roster and then regular playing time before finally earning a job as a starter. His work ethic exemplified the blue collar mentality that made him the perfect fit at Georgia Southern. Not only did he accomplish these things, but he also was an unbelievable person who demonstrated our core values. The ultimate servant leader, he affected so many lives in a positive manner. I want to give a big thank you to his family for allowing us the to honor Edwin Jackson by naming our walk-on tryouts after him."
A star athlete at Westlake High School in Atlanta, Jackson earned his spot on the Georgia Southern roster his freshman year, in which he played in 13 games and had 10 total tackles. By the next season, it was obvious Jackson was improving at a rapid pace, and by his junior year, Jackson was a starter.
He would go on to lead the team in tackles his final two years, and was named First-Team All-Sun Belt his senior season. In 48 career games, Jackson tallied 218 tackles.
He went unselected in the 2015 NFL Draft, but again took on a "walk-on" mentality. After initially signing with the Arizona Cardinals, he was picked up by the Indianapolis Colts late in 2015. The next season, he won a spot on the Week 1 roster, and by midseason, he was starting at inside linebacker, finishing the year playing in all 16 games, with eight starts, and tallying 66 tackles.
Jackson, who was competing for a starting job once again in 2017, was placed on injured reserve just before the start of the season. On Feb. 4, he was one of two victims, along with Uber driver Jeffrey Monroe, who were tragically struck and killed along the side of Interstate 70.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard, speaking at Jackson’s Celebration of Life service held Feb. 12 in Atlanta, said Jackson and his family "inspired me to treat people differently."
"Because tomorrow's not promised to any of us," Ballard said. "He was a special young man, and I was very fortunate to have gotten to know him. But he's not gone. He is not gone. The impact he made on our organization, on our players, on our coaches, on our scouts, is tremendous. And that will live on. It will live on, and he will always be a Colt."