Raleigh Savion Jackson thought he’d take his shot.
Heading into the 2021 season, NC State head coach Dave Doeren asked if he could switch from the No. 90 jersey to the No. 9.
While asking to change numbers isn’t uncommon in college football, Wolfpack’s Number 9 is special.
This number cannot be dialed. It must be given to the player by Doeren.
It was worn by Mario Williams, No. 1 overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. Later made famous by Bradley Chubb, who now plays for the Denver Broncos, no NC State players have worn it since Chubb’s last season in 2017.
This number was honored at Carter Finley Stadium. As a defensive end, like Williams and Chop during their time at NC State, Jackson thought he would ask.
“Tell me I’m not ready,” Jackson said. “I took that very seriously.”
Clayton High-grad knew the importance of wearing this shirt.
In 2006, Williams became the first ACC player to be the first pick from the NFL draft. Drafted by the Houston Texans, Williams was the first US team in 2005 and was a two-time All-ACC performer.
Chubb was unanimously the first All-American as a Senior and was the 2017 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. The school’s record for professional interventions was set for loss (60) and shackling (26). Both records were formerly kept by Williams.
Jackson, junior, is coming off his best season, despite being cut short after nine games when he injured his knee against Florida State. Keeping up with what Doeren told him when he asked for a shirt swap, he finished off the 2021 season with a career high in his 51st career, including 4.5 tackles for a loss and a sack.
Taking it to “another level”
On the first day of fall camp, Jackson walked to the NC State training ground wearing a No. 9. Doreen won the “Consistency Over Time,” which earned the jersey shortly after spring practice.
Jackson started 13 games in three seasons with 51 interferences to his career. Probability is key when it comes to Doeren’s version 9.
“Bradley was a solid sophomore, which gave us faith in him,” Doeren said. “I see it with Savion now. Bradley took it to another level. Savion still needs to do it, but we believe in him.”
Chap only fought four tackles as a freshman in 2014, while wearing No. 49. He had 66 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks when he was a sophomore. At the time, Doeren began the tradition of honoring the player by giving him the No. 9. Wearing the jersey, Chubb scored 21 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks as a starter. He finished with a total of 194 tackles, including 54.5 tackles for a loss and 25 sacks in his last three seasons.
Jackson still has a long way to go to pick up those numbers, but he doesn’t feel any extra pressure to be the next Chappe or Williams.
“I look at him like he’s kicking me in the ass,” Jackson said. “When I want to calm this actor down, I keep running toward the ball. All eyes are on me, so I keep running toward the ball. I just play hard.”
“greater than a number’
After Doeren gave him the new jersey, Jackson had one more thing to do: He had to make a phone call to Chubb. It is part of the requirement.
Chubb had to call Williams before he made the switch in 2016. Chubb had to make sure Jackson wanted the shirt for the right reasons and not because he “looked cool”.
“I had to grow up and be a leader,” Jackson said. “It’s different characteristics, not just on the field. If I was a great player and a bad person off the field, I probably wouldn’t wear it.”
There will also be a patch on the shirt honoring Williams and Chubb. Jackson does not want to leave these two NC state legends.
“It’s bigger than a number,” Jackson said. “It’s like you’re winning an award, like Heisman, that group of Heisman winners, it’s like you’re a part of that history or legacy.”