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Originally published Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Jerry Brewer

Lawrence Jackson ponders future with Seahawks

You don't interview Lawrence Jackson. You have a discussion. The Seahawks rookie defensive end is like a 270-pound Confucius, like a Socrates...

Seattle Times staff columnist

KIRKLAND — You don't interview Lawrence Jackson. You have a discussion. The Seahawks rookie defensive end is like a 270-pound Confucius, like a Socrates in shoulder pads. He's Plato with a great initial burst.

He tells his story through quotes he has memorized over the years. He shares his joy of philosophy and ponders the influence religion had on some of history's greatest deep thinkers. He talks about football, too, with the requisite passion of a football player, only he delivers his words with a cerebral charm that allows him to turn athlete stereotypes into his tackling dummy.

Point out his demeanor, and Jackson laughs it off. He's only 22. He doesn't want to be known as a sage just yet.

"This is a work personality," he says. "When I'm around my friends, I'm a little bit looser, not as cerebral as people think. It's not like I sit and ponder with a smoke pipe in my mouth."

It remains to be seen if Jackson, the Seahawks' first-round pick in April, turns into an impact player. For certain, however, it will be intriguing to watch him develop.

He's already so mature. He spent five years in college, growing from redshirt to dominant end. He studied philosophy at USC before switching to sociology because the philosophy classes started conflicting with practice. Still, Jackson's analytical mind is full of sayings.

"My all-time favorite is, 'Only the strong survive,' " Jackson said. "I equate this to kind of like survival of the fittest. Everybody in society, we're all animals. We're just different types of animals, and because we're humans, we kind of don't see it that way. You've got your birds, your cats, your lions and so on. You've got to find where you fit in. Say somebody happens to be like an armadillo. You've got to adapt, like an armadillo has a shell. It's the same thing in life."

This persona is no act. Linebacker Lofa Tatupu was with Jackson for two years at USC and remembers the same reserved, thoughtful kid. Jackson was a redshirt during Tatupu's junior year, but instead of moping, Jackson worked so hard in practice that year that he was named the USC service team defensive player of the year. As a redshirt freshman, he recorded six sacks and helped the Trojans win the national title.

"He's a real humble kid," Tatupu said before warning us not to confuse Jackson with being soft. "It's those quiet ones you want to watch out for. You don't know when they're going to snap. They don't say much, and then they let things build up and build up, and then when they get it off their chest, it's scary. We're really lucky to have him on our side."

Jackson considers the Seahawks an ideal fit. Landing here makes sense now. It eases the disappointment he had as a junior, when he came under criticism after recording only four sacks. He still believes his junior season wasn't as bad as depicted, but he proved himself again as a senior (10.5 sacks). Now he's with a team that can utilize his pass-rushing abilities.

"A lot of people were making a big deal about my junior year, but that had a rhyme and a reason to it, too," Jackson said. "If I had 12 sacks that year, I probably would've been gone and not been here. This is where I wanted to be. I thought that I could flourish in this scheme. If anything had changed in the past, it might've changed this. So I would keep everything how it is."

That sentiment brings Jackson to a couple of other quotes he loves.

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"You can only sit at a red light for so long, but once it turns green, you've got to go," he says.

And then he adds: "It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe."

He can apply both to his burgeoning career. After waiting so long for this opportunity, he'll be prepared now that the NFL light is green. And he's willing to cover every little step to make sure he has a successful journey.

"Occasionally, I'll get a little rock, and it'll just kill me until I bend down, take my shoe off and take it out," Lawrence said, metaphorically. "That's the thing about life. It's the little things that get you."

The only dirt you can find on this kid is that he sneaked and got a tattoo during his freshman year of college. He knew better than to have it done while under the roof of his disciplinarian parents. Of course, typical Jackson, his ink isn't normal ink.

On his upper left arm, Jackson has a bar code with "Product Of God" written on top and "Made In Heaven" written below. Then he has the numbers 007015004 written just beneath the bar code.

"The zeros are actually space fillers," he said. "The main numbers are 7 for G, 15 for O and 4 for D."

The numbers coincide with the order of the alphabet. Jackson grinned at his creativity.

In his quiet, cerebral way, he's already a great character in a locker room full of personalities. If he follows up with stellar play, the Seahawks will have a delightfully fresh star.

Half Reggie White, half Yoda? Now that would be some combination.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or brewer@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports. Also check out Jerry's Extra Points blog, where he talks with readers about his columns.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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