- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Bennett Jackson knows life is about to change. Back in South Bend, Ind., to complete his training, the former Notre Dame cornerback is relishing the time spent with many of his Irish teammates before they go their separate ways following next month's NFL draft.
"The good thing about it is you're all going through the same thing," Jackson told ESPN.com. "Everyone's a little different, but I feel like it helps you bond more with each other. We'll still see each other and keep in contact, but it's not like we're going to be running (into each other) around the corner anymore."
Fitting that the Hazlet, N.J., native uses that term, considering Jackson's running ability is what has put him in position to be drafted. He had a foray as a track star during his time at Notre Dame and, less than thrilled with his 40-yard dash time at the NFL scouting combine in February, improved his mark at pro day, from a 4.51 to 4.40. It would have been good for fifth-fastest among his position group in Indianapolis. His 20-yard shuttle time of 4.00 matched the best among all corners as well.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Jackson switched to corner after arriving to Notre Dame as a receiver. A junior season as a pivotal piece on the nation's No. 2 scoring defense, followed by a senior campaign in which he was the lone defensive captain, offered pro scouts plenty of work to judge, as he is projected as a mid-to-late round pick.
Still, the benefit of a late-career position switch might be upside, as Jackson could still be far from his ceiling as a cover man.
"I think my better days are ahead, for sure," Jackson said.
NFL clubs have discussed a move to safety, something Jackson is open to. He had spent time in the winter in Knoxville, Tenn., working with Charles Petrone, the same athletic trainer who helped Harrison Smith as the former Irish safety became a first-round pick with the Minnesota Vikings two years ago.
Jackson has spoken with roughly a half-dozen teams. From the combine through this final stretch of conditioning, the pre-draft process has been exhausting and rewarding all at once. But Jackson has come to appreciate it, and he will happily watch everything unfold with his mom in New Jersey next week as he waits to hear his and his teammates' names called.
"You think as a player there are all these unnecessary tests, but when I sit there and look back at it, they put millions of dollars into these players," Jackson said. "When I look back at it, I understand why (NFL teams) do it."