CHICAGO — Frisman Jackson has beaten the odds twice — as a player and now coach — to make an NFL roster.
The former Morgan Park High School star played for six seasons as a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. This month, Jackson, who had several previous collegiate coaching stints, was named wide receivers coach with the Tennessee Titans.
"That chances of guys like me making it out and being successful are slim, so hopefully I can be an example to Chicago Public Schools kids that if you continue to work hard and put yourself in the right position, you can open doors for yourself," the 37-year-old Jackson said.
Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of high school football players reach the NFL, according to the NCAA. There are no statistics on the likelihood of becoming an NFL coach, but there are only a handful of positions on each team and just 32 teams in the NFL.
Jackson said the key to his success in both professions has been staying focused on the present.
"I'm a very in-the-moment person," he said.
Even when he was a freshman at Morgan Park, Mustangs offensive coordinator Keith Brookshire saw potential greatness in Jackson's future as a player and coach. In spring 7-on-7 games at Washington Park as a ninth-grader, Jackson almost instantaneously picked up the Mustangs' offensive system. He was a starting QB for his final three prep seasons before playing at Northern Illinois and Western Illinois, where Jackson set school records for catches (14) and receiving yards (286) in a game against Indiana State in 2001.
"He was always a coach on the field," Brookshire said. "He directed traffic on the field and he always sat down with us when we were trying to develop the system and apply it to the field. Coaching just came naturally to him."
After his six-year NFL career ended, Jackson turned to coaching. His resume includes stops at Western Illinois, Akron, Northern Illinois, North Carolina State and most recently at Temple, where he coached wide receivers and was the Owls' passing game coordinator.
He found out about the Titans' opening from Tennessee offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, who was Jackson's position coach when he played in Cleveland.
Jackson said coaching allows him to mentor players the same way Brookshire and former Morgan Park head coach Lexie Spurlock helped him.
"A lot of the things I've achieved in life is because of football, and the people from a male perspective who have made an impact in my life have all been coaches," Jackson said. "It was my duty to get involved with coaching and do the same thing for others."
Said Spurlock: "Frisman has exceptional ability to stay focused with attention to details. He has a passion for the game of football. He's going to make Chicago proud."
Jackson recently moved to Nashville and his family — wife Lindsey; 5-year-old daughter Anya; and 2-year-old son Forrest — will be joining him in a few weeks.
He jokingly said raising his family is a lot tougher than coaching NFL and college players.
"At least I can threaten to take playing time away with players," Jackson said, laughing. "My kids, they know I'll fold quick."