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  1. #1
    COJOMAY is offline Jersey Retired
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    Dec 1969

    My name is Tarvaris ... and I am a workout-aholic

    [size=18px]My name is Tarvaris ... and I am a workout-aholic[/size]

    Story by JIM SOUHAN
    Photographs by JERRY HOLT

    Montgomery, Ala. -- Coaches say rookies should be sponges, the better to absorb information, but at the moment Tarvaris Jackson looks more like a wet towel. It's 98 degrees in the only patch of shade near Lanier High's football field, and the sweat pooling on Jackson's cantaloupe shoulders is threatening to form its own ecosystem. In the Deep South, it's not the heat, it's not the humidity -- it's the spontaneous combustion that gets you. As you swelter, you imagine trees bursting into flame and clocks melting as in a Dali landscape, yet there is Jackson, the Vikings' rookie quarterback, voluntarily running sprints, pulling a weighted sled and -- get this -- wearing long, black athletic leggings while the rest of the citizenry sips sweet tea and seeks shelter.

    "They keep my legs warm," he says of the leggings.

    Jackson will take the field for the first time in public as a Vikings quarterback Friday when the team opens the on-field portion of training camp in Mankato. Most fledgling NFL players hope they can survive. Jackson hopes he'll be able to break a sweat.

    "My sister tells me I'm a addicted to working out," Jackson says, later, in the living room of his mother's home. "She says I should go to meetings, stand up and say, 'My name is Tarvaris, and I am a workoutaholic.'

    "I think it's good for me to work out in this. Minnesota should feel pretty cool."

    During an Alabama July, cool is a state of mind. On this Wednesday in Montgomery, Jackson pushes himself and his buddies through agility drills, chopping his feet on the browned-out grass in a typewriter's staccato. He throws hundreds of passes.

    Then, he works out.

    "It's ab day today," making it sound as if he's going to pick up a six-pack at the store.

    Uh, no. After two hours in the sun, he heads to his other alma mater, Alabama State, to hit the weight room. He lifts with his legs, then puts himself through a series of torturous exercises designed to strengthen abdominals, obliques and willpower.

    It hurts just to watch.

    This is Jackson's daily, self-imposed routine -- two hours of running and throwing in what feels like 100-degree heat and 100-percent humidity, weight workouts, more throwing at night, rinse (yes, his schedule demands multiple daily showers), repeat.

    Camp Masochism is nothing new for Jackson. When the Vikings chose him in the second round of the NFL draft, most observers described the move as a reach, a mistake.

    Those who know Jackson wondered why he lasted so long.

    "I put him up with anybody," said Alabama State strength and conditioning coach Derek Scott. "I often tell people he was the steal of the draft. Vince Young and Matt Leinert, I don't think they could wear his shoes when it comes to doing it all."

    ASU coach Charles Coe said: "He was our catalyst, our leader. He's got a mean streak, like a linebacker, and he set the example for everyone as a worker.

    "This program hadn't won the SWAC championship in 15 years, until Tarvaris took us to one. I've coached a lot of places -- Missouri, Pitt, Kansas State, Louisville, Tennessee and Iowa -- and I've seen a lot of quarterbacks. I believe Tarvaris will be a very good NFL quarterback for a long time."

    Even if Jackson proves to be the steal of the draft, it will still be easy to understand why teams overlooked him.

    He played for a run-oriented offense at Lanier High. He accepted a scholarship to Arkansas, but couldn't unseat starter Matt Jones and transferred home to Division I-AA Alabama State.

    "Matt became an NFL receiver," Jackson said. "My friends at Arkansas told me that if I had been the quarterback and he had played receiver, we would have been a BCS team."

    Jackson immediately became the starter at Alabama State in 2003, and his progress as a passer is obvious:

    • In 2003 he had a 51 percent completion percentage, 2,342 yards, 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

    • In '04 he completed 52 percent with 2,562 yards, 20 TDs and 9 INTs.

    • In '05 he completed 61 percent for 2,940 yards with 29 TDs and 5 INTs.

    "He changed the face of this program," Scott said, while watching a room filled with current and former ASU players work out. "We were in disarray, we had just lost our coach, the team was down when he got here, nobody expected us to win and he came in and captivated the whole city.

    "He was my gym rat. He was the guy who made other players work out, who never missed a workout, who never complained. You know how rare that is today?

    "He was a good spokesman for the program and a great leader. He just did everything right."

    Jackson took ASU to two Southwestern Athletic Conference championship games, winning one, but what grabbed pro scouts was his pre-draft workouts. Not many quarterbacks combine a lineman's strength (he can bench-press 375 pounds) with a tap-dancer's feet, a powerful arm and precise mechanics.

    You watch Jackson work, you watch him zip passes with his powerful arm, and you see what the Vikings saw in him.

    So it's not surprising that when he stops by a local barbershop, fans won't let him walk out the door without telling him how much they appreciate him.

    "One fan kept saying the same thing to me over and over for half an hour," Jackson said. "There are some crazy ASU fans around here."

    Tuesday afternoon, after his multiple workouts, Jackson went to a local electronics store to sign copies of a new NCAA football video game.

    Arona Robinson, mother of one of Jackson's old Lanier High teammates, showed up to get autographs for her family.

    "When he went to Arkansas, I was very sad," she said. "When he came back, the whole town got excited. He's a wonderful player, and a good boy."

    Showing promise

    His mother, Sasanque Jackson, raised Tarvaris and his sister, Shamika, without much help from the children's father.

    "I had help from my mother, and my sister, but it was hard," Sasanque said. "I worked two jobs. But Tarvaris never gave me trouble. He was always a good boy."

    Sasanque played softball, volleyball and basketball.

    "She's where I got my arm," Tarvaris said.

    The Jacksons are sitting on the plush furniture in the living room of Sasanque's home on the west side of town. Tarvaris is cradling his niece, Tania, in his massive arms.

    They live in one of many one-story houses in the neighborhood, houses that look as if they're hunkered down against the July heat.

    As a child, Jackson always was begging to go outside, where he could show off that arm.

    He dreamed of playing college baseball and football, but football commanded all of his time after he took over as quarterback in high school.

    Sasanque remembers attending his Little League baseball games and hearing other parents pray that "that Tarvaris" wouldn't pitch.

    "They didn't want their kids hit by his fastball," she said. "I always had to have company over, because he always had to have someone to play with. He was always throwing things, inside the house and outside.

    "One time we were playing outside and he started throwing rocks, and accidentally hit me right in the head. I had a knot that wouldn't go down for a long time.

    "Another time, he made me come out to play dodge ball with him and his friends. He jumped up, trying to avoid the ball, and I hit him in the legs and knocked him over.

    "He was about 5. He landed hard and got embarrassed and came after me, yelling, and I had to pick him up and throw him in a little bush. We still laugh about that."

    Sasanque works nights -- 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. -- at the local Hyundai factory. Barring a contract holdout, Jackson soon will sign his first pro contract, and life might change for the whole family. Then Sasanque might not have to make, or drive, Hyundais.

    "I play football because I love to play football," Jackson said. "Playing in the NFL -- what that will mean is financial stability. If my mom doesn't want to work, she won't have to.

    "I think playing in the NFL will give me the ability to do things outside football, as well."

    Jackson hopes to run his own business someday, and to conduct football camps while he's playing.

    "He's already told me that he plans on giving back, and helping with things at Lanier," said L.C. Cole, who was the head football coach at ASU before becoming the Lanier football coach and athletic director. "That's the kind of young man he is."

    Gearing up

    Back at Lanier the next morning, Jackson lays out ropes for agility drills, the sled for power running, and cones for sprints.

    He has the upper-body bulk of a strong safety and the easy stride of a track athlete, and none of this is happenstance.

    Jackson refuses to eat fried foods. "I'll come in the house and there will be fried chicken on the stove," he said. "I'll take a bite, chew it up and spit it out. Fried foods won't let me do everything I want to do."

    Jackson plans to buy a house a short drive from the Vikings' facility in Eden Prairie. He wants to invest time in his career, and he figures a house is a good financial investment.

    He says he never voiced his ambitions when he was young.

    "I didn't know how much he wanted it until high school," Sasanque said.

    "I've heard so many people say they're going to do this and do that, and it doesn't happen," Jackson said. "I didn't want to talk about things until I was sure I could do them."

    Now, with his morning workouts completed and his first training camp on the horizon, Jackson is willing to look ahead.

    "I want to get through my first camp," he said. "I want to be a good teammate, have the guys say, 'He's got my back.'

    "I want to learn from the coaches and Brad Johnson, and eventually be a Hall of Fame quarterback and win Super Bowls and all that, but my first goal is pretty simple. I want to be a starter, as soon as possible."

    Jackson doesn't mind being a work in progress, because all of his progress has been the result of hard work.
    Kentucky Vikes Fan

    When you require nothing, you get nothing; when you expect nothing, you will find nothing; when you embrace nothing, all you will have is nothing.

  2. #2
    PurplePeopleEaters's Avatar
    PurplePeopleEaters is offline Jersey Retired
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    Dec 1969

    Re: My name is Tarvaris ... and I am a workout-aholic

    Interesting read. Great to hear that he has an insane work ethic.

  3. #3
    Property0f's Avatar
    Property0f is offline Pro-Bowler
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    Dec 1969

    Re: My name is Tarvaris ... and I am a workout-aholic

    Best read of the off season by far.

  4. #4
    oddmanout22287 is offline Pro-Bowler
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    Dec 1969

    Re: My name is Tarvaris ... and I am a workout-aholic

    It's always nice to read stories like this during the offseason, just to remind you that amidst all the holdouts and money mongering some people just realize how lucky they are.
    That said... when's T-Jack gonna sign???
    PM me if you'd like a sig.

  5. #5
    PurplePumpkin's Avatar
    PurplePumpkin is offline Pro-Bowler
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    Dec 1969

    Re: My name is Tarvaris ... and I am a workout-aholic

    With that additude...he will probably start next season

  6. #6
    Braddock's Avatar
    Braddock is offline Hall of Famer
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    Dec 1969
    Clermont, FL

    Re: My name is Tarvaris ... and I am a workout-aholic

    See, all you nay-sayers puttin him down, countin him out. I AM THE OFFICIAL PP.O T-JACK FANATIC from day 1 and him and I together will take over the world. He's gonna be 10x that of Pep.
    Trying to bring rationale to an irrational site

  7. #7
    Ltrey33 is offline Jersey Retired
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    Dec 1969

    Re: My name is Tarvaris ... and I am a workout-aholic

    "Braddock" wrote:
    See, all you nay-sayers puttin him down, countin him out. I AM THE OFFICIAL PP.O T-JACK FANATIC from day 1 and him and I together will take over the world. He's gonna be 10x that of Pep.
    Physical gifts are one thing, but playing the game is something else. When Chidlress drafted him they all talked about what a great athlete he was and what a cannon for an arm he had, but they all said he needed to mature and learn to be a quarterback. That article doesn't say much about that. I'd much rather hear that he spends 10 hours a day with a coach breaking down film.

    With that said, it's nice to see the guy has a good work ethic. I'm glad he has a strong desire to get better. That's half the battle! I can't wait to see him play in the preseason.

  8. #8
    BadlandsVikings's Avatar
    BadlandsVikings is offline Jersey Retired
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    Apr 2006

    Re: My name is Tarvaris ... and I am a workout-aholic

    Good to know he's a hard worker.

  9. #9
    Prophet Guest

    Re: My name is Tarvaris ... and I am a workout-aholic

    "Braddock" wrote:
    I just hope it isn't because of this:

    ...wearing long, black athletic leggings...

  10. #10
    NordicNed is offline Jersey Retired
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    Dec 1969

    Re: My name is Tarvaris ... and I am a workout-aholic

    For me, I'll just be keeping an eye on ole TJ.....

    Seems he has a good hold on realizing hard work can lead to great accomplishments.

    If he can also grasp and perfect whatever Childress and his other coaches throw at him, he may turn out to be one hell of a QB for us. I'm hoping whatever Childress and others see in him, turns out to be a Real Deal for us as a team, and TJ to take us to those Super Bowls he's mentioned and bring us home some trophys....

    That would be sweet, Yes Sirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.....


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