- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005

D’Qwell Jackson considered leaving Maryland after his junior season, but the middle linebacker decided to stay after learning he would not be selected any higher than the second round of the NFL Draft.

He remained in College Park, determined to improve as a player and help the Terrapins return to the postseason. And while Maryland could manage only another 5-6 campaign, Jackson authored a season impressive enough to be named the ACC’s defensive player of the year yesterday.

Jackson (31 votes) beat Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (17) and Virginia Tech defensive end Darryl Tapp (14) for the honor in a vote of media members who cover the conference. Jackson also finished third in the balloting for the conference player of the year, falling two votes shy of tailback Chris Barclay of Wake Forest.

“To be able to be defensive player of the year with all the great linebackers and great defensive players in the league is tremendous,” Jackson said. “We didn’t have the season we hoped for, but to still be able to get this award is a big accomplishment and I’m proud of it.”

Jackson ranks second nationally with 13.7 tackles a game (137 total) and added four sacks and two interceptions in his final season. He is the second Maryland player to be named the league’s defensive player of the year, joining E.J. Henderson (2001-02).

The Largo, Fla., native and Barclay — also named offensive player of the year — are the first from teams with a losing record to receive one of the ACC’s player of the year honors since Duke quarterback Ben Bennett in 1983. The conference began recognizing offensive and defensive players of the year in addition to an overall player of the year in 1993.

Although his final college game — the Jan.28 Senior Bowl — is almost two months away, Jackson already is starting the process of finding an agent and pursuing a professional football career. He almost did so last year, but the second-round evaluation coupled with a wrist injury that eventually required offseason surgery prompted him to return to school.

“Anybody’s who’s entering the draft obviously wants to go in the first round,” Jackson said. “I wanted to work like a first-rounder, practice like a first-rounder and play like a first-rounder. You have to have the mind-set.”

The award is a remarkable capstone to a career that almost happened somewhere else. Coach Ralph Friedgen recalled last month how Jackson wavered on sending his letter of intent to Maryland on signing day in 2002.

“We were going around and around,” Friedgen said. “Finally, I had to go to the recruiting reception. I said, look, if it’s in the fax when I get in in the morning, I’ll know you’re a Terp, and if it isn’t, good luck to you in your life.”

The letter was there, and it was a decision neither Maryland nor Jackson regretted. He missed only one game in four seasons and was a starter his final three years.

Jackson’s 447 tackles rank fourth on Maryland’s career list, though the respect he earned from teammates for his approach to the game was even more impressive. He was a near-unanimous selection as the Terps’ defensive captain, and his steady play — he had at least nine tackles in every game he played — made him a stabilizing force on a young team.

“Just approaching this, my final season, I didn’t try to put any extra pressure on myself,” Jackson said. “I told myself every day I had something to prove and to be consistent. That’s not saying I have to make every big play or it’s [all] me. I just wanted to make everybody else around me play better. If it caused me to make a big play, so be it.”

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