THE MORNING AFTER: Eddie’s day of fate

Chicago Bears free safety Eddie Jackson (39) scoops a fumble and runs it back for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers in the first quarter on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – Often when a tidbit is presented to an athlete following a contest about their own career, the might not remember it.

That’s common and isn’t a reflection of the player at all. Many times those on the outside tend to pay more mind to anniversaries, statistics, or various nuggets of information that are interesting to the audience.

On Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field, Eddie Jackson had something like that happen to himself.

Following his most productive and historic effort to date, a reporter reminded the safety of something that happened to him a year ago on that very date – October 22, 2016.

“I didn’t know that, to be honest. That’s crazy,” said Jackson, when informed that he broke his leg while at Alabama on the same date as his contest with the Panthers at Soldier Field Sunday.

Even after being told it again, Jackson didn’t seem to believe it.

“For real? Aw man. That’s crazy,” said Jackson again of the anniversary. “I really didn’t even know that. That’s crazy.”

But it’s real, Eddie. Fate has a funny way of working itself out in football – and Sunday was no exception.

Jackson had not one but two defensive touchdowns for the Bears in a 17-3 defeat of Carolina at Soldier Field. While getting two touchdowns on defense is rare in itself for the Bears – he was the first to do it since Fred Evans in 1948 – but the way he did it made history.

A scoop of a fumble in the first quarter and the following 75-yard sprint to the other end netted Jackson his first NFL touchdown. A catch of a deflected Cam Newton pass and some shifty move on the sidelines got him a 76-yard score. The safety became the first player in NFL history with two defensive touchdowns of more than 75 yards in a single game.

“It’s a blessing. I owe it all to God and my teammates,” said Jackson when informed of his record. You know the guys up front they did a great job putting pressure on the quarterback and forcing mistakes on him.”

Fate is funny, isn’t it. A year ago, his season ends. A year later, an NFL career truly begins. But if not for the first thing, the second wouldn’t have even happened.

Don’t forget that Jackson, a dual-threat player who was known not just for his defense but his kick returning prowess, was projected initially as a late first, early second round pick. With their eyes focused on Mitchell Trubisky from the combine moving forward, it’s very unlikely the Bears would have snagged him at that point in the draft.

Yet a broken leg raised just enough doubt to cause teams to pass on Jackson not only in the first and second round, but the third as well. The injury, in effect, gave him a chance to join the Chicago Bears. Ryan Pace didn’t miss a chance to add to his safety-depleted secondary, selecting Jackson with the fifth pick of the third day of the draft in the fourth round.

If what happened on October 22nd last year didn’t occur, than what happened on Sunday wouldn’t have either. In all likelihood, Jackson is somewhere else and may not have had an elevated position on the defense like he has for the Bears so far.

The two touchdowns add to a quick start for Jackson in Chicago, who has 23 tackles and four pass deflections in the first seven weeks of the season.

“He’s a tremendous young guy, as well as a young player. I think we saw it early on,” said Bears head coach John Fox of Jackson. “We have some good young players on both sides of the ball. Eddie showed those things to the coaching staff and to his teammates early on, and now you all get to see it.”

In Chicago, nonetheless. That wouldn’t have been the case had something negative happened on October 22, 2016 that led to a positive a year later on that date.

“I’ve been through a lot in my life,” said Jackson, who credited Alabama and the Bears for helping him get healthy after the injury. “It’s just a minor stepping stone.”

Funny how football works, isn’t it?