As Hue Jackson works to build Grambling State, his NFL past is never far behind

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GRAMBLING, La. — Grambling State new football coach Hue Jackson is already making national television appearances and the Tigers haven't even played a game.

In just two months, Jackson recruited and landed players from Power Five schools, set up NIL deals for scholarship players and announced the largest signing class in school history.

However, the questions the national media has been asking since last Wednesday are about his responses as a Black coach in the NFL and how he was treated.

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Jackson, 56, began his coaching career at his alma mater, Pacific, in 1987. He jumped around in his early years, coaching at Pacific, Cal State Fullerton, World League’s London Monarchs, Arizona State, Cal and USC.

He got his break in the NFL in 2001 with Washington as a running backs coach and two years later as offensive coordinator. He bounced around at Cincinnati (2004–06), Atlanta (2007), Baltimore (2008-09) and Oakland (2010) before being named head coach coach of the Raiders in 2011. It lasted one season despite an 8-8 record.

He resurfaced in Cincinnati for four seasons and got a second opportunity with the Cleveland Browns in 2016. Midway through his third season he was fired after compiling a 3-36-1 record.

"I wanted to be one of 32, however that was gonna happen," Jackson told the News-Star on Jan. 24. "For minority coaches, it's tough. There's been a 101-year history of the league, and there's only been 19 minority head coaches — and I've done it twice."

Black coaches like Brian Flores — who filed a lawsuit against the NFL, the Dolphins, Broncos and Giants last week — and the Texans' David Culley were fired, leaving Mike Tomlin until this week as the lone Black coach in the NFL.

Jackson jumped on social media to back Flores, claiming that he dealt with a similar situation with the Browns.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam shot back at Jackson in an interview with Knox News.

"Hue Jackson has never ever accepted any responsibility for our record during that time period,” Haslam said. “He’s been masterful at pointing fingers but has never accepted any blame. I have accepted a ton of blame, and rightfully so.

Jackson clarified his statements the next day in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.

"No, I was never offered money like Brian had mentioned," Jackson said.

"When you talk about incentivizing a four-year plan that led to the team not being able to play as well, that people benefited off of that — that's different. But at the same time, it has some of the same similarities to it."

In the event that Jackson files a suit of his own, Grambling athletics director Trayvean Scott and school president Rick Gallot told the News-Star they will support him.

Jackson had told the News-Star Black coaches had a short leash as coaches in the NFL and lacked second opportunities.

"I've had it happen," Jackson said. "It's painful, it's difficult and the coaches who go through it and come out the other side of it, they will be better for it. I think until people really want to dive into it and dig into it and really trace it back to when it first started, we won't really understand it.

"I think we just pay a lot of lip service to it right now, but at the same time, we have to make a difference."

Jackson said it's a major reason why he came to Grambling, an HBCU. Jackson spent last season as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at Tennessee State.

Jackson remembers the HBCU-to-NFL pipeline, which has dwindled over time. The NFL used to be filled with players from HBCUs but this season only 18 players made initial NFL 53-man rosters from an HBCU, according to HBCU Gameday. Being at GSU, he now sees himself, along with Deion Sanders of Jackson State and Eddie George of Tennessee State, bringing that farm system back.

"If you're a defensive back like (No. 1 recruit Travis Hunter) who is going to Jackson State, why would you not go play for Deion Sanders; if you're a quarterback that's coming to an HBCU, why would you not come to Grambling?" Jackson said. "Grambling was Quarterback-U. You talk about Doug Williams and Bruce Eugene — a lot of great quarterbacks have played here."

Although Jackson plans to stay at Grambling "until they kick me out," the News-Star has requested Jackson's contract and school officials have yet to release any documents.

This article originally appeared on Monroe News-Star: As Hue Jackson builds Grambling State, his NFL past never far behind