During what’s considered a down period for the San Francisco 49ers with voluntary workouts, Drake Jackson certainly sparked lots of conversations with his newfound, muscular physique that went viral on Wednesday, May 31.
It’s a stirring change for a defender who was once deactivated for numerous games by the 49ers — but not because of injuries. It was because the Niners’ top draft selection of 2022 wore down. Now, the newly chiseled edge defender says he’s put on 13 pounds of muscle.
It wasn’t just 49er fans who chimed in on Jackson’s new image, though. The man who spends his most one-on-one time with him also delivered a strong reaction to witnessing the physique changes: Jackson’s defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.
Kocurek Noticed How 2022 ‘Humbled’ Jackson
Jackson first entered the league being lauded as an impressive, freakish athlete with game-changing attributes. Kocurek himself was aware of Jackson’s athleticism.
“Growing up, he was one of the best AAU players out there,” Kocurek shared on Thursday via David Lombardi of The Athletic. “Five-star recruit, goes to USC; one of the better players there. I seriously doubt that he ever got told that he wasn’t good enough to be on the field. So he’s probably always been on the field.”
However, Jackson experienced a tank nearing empty…with the season not even completed.
“And then towards the end of [last season], when strength levels kind of went down, and he got deactivated, I’m sure it was a humbling experience for him,” Kocurek said.
But in Kocurek’s eyes, how did the now-second year defender handle the deactivation and witnessing others disrupt the trenches on the 49ers?
“He took it the right way. But the NFL is a humbling game, and if you haven’t been humbled yet, you better be looking around the corner because it’s coming sooner or later,” Kocurek said.
Kocurek Details New Work Ethic of Edge Rusher
Now, Jackson has gone from looking like a 3-4 outside linebacker with his rookie physique to looking more like a true rush end who surpasses the 260-pound mark. Kocurek says Jackson isn’t one who skips workouts.
“He hasn’t missed a day,” Kocurek said. “He’s stacked one on top of the next and really transitioned his body into going into a season to be able to withstand the rigors of a 17-game schedule, hopefully going into the playoffs, playing deep into the playoffs. And he set himself up to be successful with the work that he’s done day in and day out.”
Kocurek included how Jackson’s weight gain came without a trip to a fast food restaurant.
“It can’t just be a one-day deal, show up, work hard for a day and skip three. He’s been consistent with his approach to it, and it’s showing with what he’s done with his body, not only the weight that he’s gained, the good weight that he’s gained,” Kocurek said. “It’s one thing to go to McDonald’s and eat five cheeseburgers a day and put on some pounds like I’ve done in the past. [It’s another to] get in the weight room and put good nutrition in your body and put on lean muscle and eliminate as much of the fat that you have on your body.”
Kocurek, though, knew that if there was going to be a leap in Jackson’s growth, it was likely going to come after his rookie season.
“We knew that [he] was probably going to take the biggest jump going from year two, even going into year three,” Kocurek admits.
The difference was, Jackson delivered minimal production after going No. 61 overall in the second round and ultimately, became lost in the defensive line rotation. Now, he’s taken his health and body to heart — which has Kocurek visualizing a breakout 2023 campaign.
“We should see substantial strides in this game if he puts in the work and he’s willing to put into work to get it done,” Kocurek said.
Kocurek concluded with: “He’s in a much better place right now than he was a year ago, to be ready to go and be the player that we drafted in the second round.”