Jackson, a graduate and former wide receiver for Dunwoody High School, attended Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., on a full athletic scholarship in 2004. While there, his work on the gridiron helped in a historical upset when the Appalachian Mountaineers defeated the highly-favored Michigan Wolverines.
“It really put Appalachian State on the map,” Jackson said. “Scouts, agents and professional teams really took notice and the phones started to ring.”
Jackson’s speed helped propel his NFL dreams into reality as he recorded the fastest 40-yard-dash time, 4.27, of wide receivers in the 2008 NFL combine.
Just one semester shy of graduating, Jackson decided to put his education on hold to pursue his dream of playing pro football. In 2008, he was drafted in the second round, 58th pick, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It was a surreal feeling,” he said. “Knowing that I was going to play for Tampa Bay alongside future Hall of Famers was really a dream come true.”
However, a torn ACL in 2013 sidelined Jackson after stints with Tampa Bay, the Carolina Panthers and the New York Jets.
“I had to make a choice,” Jackson said. “I could get down about my current situation or I could accomplish another goal. After speaking with my mom and an academic counselor at Appalachian State, I decided to go back and obtain my degree in criminal justice.”
Thanks to a NCAA degree completion award, Jackson was able to complete his degree free of charge. The award was designed in 1989 to provide financial assistance to student athletes who were no longer eligible for standard financial aid.
Jackson is now actively pursuing his future in the criminal justice system by working full-time in the DeKalb County District Attorney office’s records division.
“Dexter is a tremendous asset to our office,” DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said. “Every day he comes in extremely eager to learn and digest all aspects of the office. Life has a way of presenting challenges that often deviate from our personal plans. I applaud Dexter for obtaining his college degree and accomplishing another incredible milestone in his life.”
While a potential future on the gridiron is not entirely out of the question, Jackson realizes he has the tools necessary to be successful in any field.
“Coming to work day-in and day-out, I see myself growing professionally in a career that I love,” Jackson said. “I know my future is bright regardless.”