Austin Jackson is seven years older than Mario Edwards Jr. The Giants’ new outfielder doesn’t really know the Raiders defensive lineman, he says. And he hasn’t seen him in a while. I told Jackson that Edwards, now listed at 294 pounds, may be larger than he recalls.
“I bet he is,” Jackson told me last Friday at AT&T Park.” He was big then, though. He used to wear this chain around his neck, like this big, thick chain. I’m like, man, what’s this kid – this ain’t like no kid, man.”
Edwards was truly a man among boys at Billy Ryan High School in Denton, Texas – the school from which Jackson also graduated. He was a football player, but that doesn’t do him justice. ESPN ranked Edwards as the No. 1 prospect in the nation, at any position, when he was a senior. He went on to Florida State, and the Raiders drafted him in the second round in 2015. He’s a good young player who has missed time with injuries.
Jackson was drafted by the Yankees right out of high school and was later traded to the Tigers; he made his MLB debut with Detroit in 2010 and played 4½ seasons there (including the 2012 World Series against the Giants). He bounced around to the Mariners, Cubs, White Sox and Indians, and signed with San Francisco on Jan. 22. And after one conversation on the eve of FanFest, I can report that he’s a funny, funny dude.
Jackson said Ryan High was a football power when he got there, and when he left, and when Edwards played there, and still is today.
“At some point you’d think they would take a dip,” he said. “Where you getting these kids from? You got guys that’s 6-8. When I played basketball there, our tallest guy was 6-3, 6-4. He was the center. They got guys 6-9. What ya’ll eatin’, man?”
Jackson did not play football in high school, despite some heavy recruiting.
“They tried every year,” he said. “My mom was like, nah, you a little too skinny to be out there. And I’m glad. I really wanted to go, cause all my friends played. And (the coach is) like, ‘Look, you don’t have to do anything but run straight down the field. That’s all you gotta do.’ And I was like, man, I could do that. Cause I could catch it. I could catch that thing. But it worked out for the best.”
Jackson is looking forward to bumping into Edwards, who is entering the final year of his initial four-year contract with the Raiders. The kid made a pretty big impression on his fellow Billy Ryan alumnus the first time.
“Like I said,” Jackson noted, “when you wearing a chain, like an anchor chain that anchors boats? I’m thinking you’re pretty strong.”