ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Bills cornerback Dane Jackson is no stranger to facing adversity. That’s why when he did not win the competition with Levi Wallace for a starting job during training camp, he knew it was just another hurdle.
“You just have to be strong minded. Growing up I faced a lot of adversity so this is nothing different. You just have to be strong minded and deal with anything that comes your way. As a backup you don’t know if you’ll play one play or 99 plays so you just have to be ready at any moment,” Jackson said after practice on Friday.
And his moment is here as he’ll start in place of Tre’Davious White who is out for the rest of the season after tearing his ACL Thanksgiving night against the Saints.
“It’s a huge opportunity, I mean I’ve been telling myself since it happened this is the opportunity of a lifetime. This is what I’ve been dreaming of, this is what I’ve been working for. Obviously I didn’t want it to happen the way it happened but this is my once in a lifetime opportunity so I’m ready to take advantage of it,” Jackson said.
“Love Dane, just what he’s been able to do the last couple years coming here, working every day. Whenever his number’s called he goes to work. And we have a saying around here work while you wait,” Bills safety Micah Hyde said.
Replacing a guy like White is no easy task. He’s one of the best cornerbacks in the league, former All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler, just to name a few reasons why he’s so important to this defense, as if Bills fans needed a reminder. His resume, play on the field and preparation speak for itself. That’s why, while players express confidence in Jackson, they’re also not putting pressure on him to be the caliber player White is.
“Dane’s been a part of that process and he understands that he has to step in. We’re not asking him to be Tre’Davious White by any means, we’re not asking him to be All-Pro and shut down every single receiver and follow the best receivers and do all that type of stuff. We’re just asking him to do his job and everybody else on the defensive side step up your role up a little bit more,” Hyde explained.
Jackson’s in his second season after the Bills drafted him in the seventh-round of out Pitt in 2020. And while he showed promise in the few opportunities he had last season, one of the reasons he didn’t win the job over Wallace is he was just too inconsistent during training camp. But one thing that keeps him going during tough times is the memories of his childhood friends.
“My first four years of college or starting my senior year of high school I lost four of my closest friends you know back to back to back to back. And at some point some people may want to give up but that just made me push harder and made me want to see myself succeed even more. So I use that as fuel to the fire,” Jackson said.
“Like these aren’t just random friends that I just met I’m talking like I get dropped off at my grandma’s house and I go outside at six in the morning and I’m knocking on the door trying to find my friends. It was like a whole group of friends and there’s only like three of us left so I just use that as fuel every single day.”
The past memories of friends is just one thing that keeps him motivated. Another is the support of his mother.
“She’s been texting me every day but it’s not like other people texting me like ‘you ready, you ready?’ She’s just making sure I’m good, making sure my mind’s right, making sure my body’s right and she just tells me like just make sure you’re good like don’t worry about what other people say you know we got a big job to do come Monday night so just block out all of the noise and be ready,” Jackson said.
But it won’t just be on Jackson to be ready, the entire defense and really the offense too has to step up in order to fill the void of White.
“We don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary, we don’t have to go try to do somebody else’s job or make a play on that side of the field if I’m supposed to be over here, it’s not like that. Just do your job and focus in maybe put an extra 30 minutes in the film study and maybe just do a little bit extra,” Hyde explained.
This comes as the Bills get ready for a huge game against the Patriots, who are still in first place in the AFC East, on Monday night at Highmark Stadium.