May 8, 2014 10:56:20 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State offensive line coach John Hevesy almost teared up this spring when asked what his first practice in five years was like without Gabe Jackson.
Tonight, he hopes he will cry tears of joy when his former recruit and offensive lineman poster boy is selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
"Gabe is the reason coaches come to work every day. In five years with Gabe, there has never been a moment when he hasn't give me and Mississippi State everything he has to give," Hevesy said. "He has worked relentlessly to become a great player, and you are going to see a lot more of Gabe Jackson on Sundays."
Jackson, a 336-pound guard, has been projected as a late first-round pick to an early third-round selection in several mock drafts.
"A team is going to get someone who is consistent and is a hard worker," Jackson said in a university release. "I am mentally and physically prepared for whatever situation I am put in."
ESPN will broadcast the first round of the 79th-annual NFL draft live at 7 tonight. The second and third rounds of the draft will begin at 6 p.m. Friday. Rounds four through seven will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday. All rounds will be televised by ESPN and the NFL Network.
Of all the possible destinations for Jackson, Dallas could be at the top of the list. Scouts and personnel directors for the Cowboys interviewed Jackson. Dallas has three picks in the top 80 selections.
"Jackson, who recorded 30 reps at the NFL Combine, is a powerful interior presence," said Bryan Broaddus, a former Dallas scout and now analyst for Cowboys.com. "Speed isn't his game, so he might not be best suited for the Cowboys' zone blocking scheme. But it's possible he could fit into any system given how strong and fluid he is at guard."
According to NFL.com, other teams that have an immediate need at guard are: defending AFC champion Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jackson started all of his 52 games at MSU. He likely will help the program have a player selected in the NFL draft for the fourth-straight year under coach Dan Mullen. Last season, Darius Slay, Johnthan Banks, and Josh Boyd were drafted. Whether it's tonight or tomorrow, Jackson is about to take the next step in his career, just like he did when Hevesy named the then-redshirt freshman to start on an offensive lineman with several veteran starters.
"Being at Mississippi State taught me how to be consistent and be that guy you can count on to do the right things on and off the field," Jackson said. "I had to lean on guys during my freshman season like (eventual first round pick) Derek Sherrod, and coach Hevesy would say to watch how he practices."
MSU has produced 12 NFL draft picks with Mullen as its coach. Since 2010, that is eighth in the Southeastern Conference, surpassing Auburn, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Missouri, and Kentucky.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.
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