He faces having to possibly play a different position in the NFL, but the biggest change Canadian offensive lineman Alaric Jackson has made in his quest for a pro football career is with himself.
The Iowa Hawkeyes towering left tackle switched to veganism last year the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the six-foot-five native of Windsor, Ont., said Monday he's no longer a vegan and has regained close to 15 pounds to boost his weight to 321 pounds.
"I stopped being vegan just before the Senior Bowl (on Jan. 30 in Mobile, Ala.)," Jackson told reporters during a videoconference following Iowa's pro day. "I think it was a good idea personally just going up against some of the top guys.
"I felt like it helped me a lot, personally. I got all my strength back, more fluid in my movements . . . I think pretty well for me."
Jackson posted 20 reps in the 225-pound bench press, 25 inches in the vertical jump, completed the three-cone drill in 7.70 seconds and had a 40-yard dash time of 5.38 seconds. He's been projected by Pro Football Network as a fourth- to fifth-round selection in this year's NFL draft, slated for April 29-May 1.
"It went pretty well overall for me, I think so at least," he said. "I showed them (NFL scouts) I can move pretty well for my size."
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz agreed.
"From what i can tell watching him, I think he really helped himself," Ferentz said. "Like a lot of guys he's hoping to play in the NFL.
"I think he's going to get that opportunity, I think it's a given and I'm sure he'll do a really good job with that opportunity when it comes available to him."
Jackson started all eight games at left tackle last season for Iowa. He was a first-team All-Big 10 selection and a second-team All-America pick by the American Football Coaches Association.
But a bigger accolade in Ferentz's opinion is Jackson -- the top-ranked prospect for this year's CFL draft -- has been a four-year starter at left tackle for the Hawkeyes.
"His redshirt freshman year, his second year on campus, he ended up in the starting lineup (as) we had a couple of veteran players get hurt," Ferentz said. ""Probably four games later our right tackle got hurt and that's when Tristan Wirfs ('20 first-round pick of Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers) got inserted into the lineup so we played with two freshman tackles.
"I thought he (Jackson) really did a good job in tough circumstances and just kept getting better and better . . . every position is important but playing left tackle is a tough, challenging position and he did a really nice job with that."
There will be undoubtedly be comparisons between Jackson and Wirfs, but the Canadian is anxious to blaze his own path into the NFL
"I'm trying to make my own path for the most part (and) just do what's best for me, honestly." he said. "It's not my idea to go to a top team with Tom Brady and (be) in a Super Bowl right away.
"I wan t to do that as well but in my own footsteps."
While obviously very comfortable at left tackle, Jackson practised in multiple spots during the Senior Bowl. If required, Jackson is confident he could successfully move to guard in the NFL.
"You've got to be able to move around a little bit," he said. "I'm positive I can do that 100 per cent Day 1."
And after five years at Iowa, Jackson feels he's more than prepared to make the jump to the NFL.
"They (Hawkeyes) run the same schemes as most NFL teams," he said. "Technique-wise they (Iowa coaches) just key on details and the small things.
"It's never about the bigger picture it's about the small details. When you're from Iowa you're going to be lineman, period. It's been that way for along time now and it's not going to change."
Jackson said the Senior Bowl was a valuable experience in his draft preparation.
"It was just a new thing for me as far as being around different coaches and players," he said. "It was kind of eye-opening for me just to see all of these people who are supposed to be the top guys and where I fit (in) and stand . .so I thought it was a pretty good experience."
Jackson was also selected to work out at this year's NFL combine, but the event was cancelled due to the global pandemic.
"It's great to be on the list," he said. "I'm really appreciative of it but it's not really a big thing to me.
"I'm just trying to get to the NFL and do my job there."
Preparing for the NFL draft is the ultimate job interview because the months-long process includes countless interviews, sometimes surprising questions and personal workouts.
For Jackson, the key remains staying on an even keel throughout the process.
"Honestly it's God for the most part," Jackson said. "It's always him, it's always been him.
"I know whatever happens, happens, just move on (because) you can't change it. You work for a long time just to be able to get here . . . you have to get in that cool zone."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2021.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press