fooMuch is made of the short career span and financial pitfalls of NFL players in mainstream media. Pro football players are often the poster children of what happens when you don’t have a backup plan. As with any other stereotype, there are exceptions to the rule and former NFL player Eddie Jackson is just that.
The Texas native had a solid career at University of Arkansas, before working his way onto the Carolina Panthers roster as an undrafted free agent in 2004. The defensive back bounced around the league over the next few years, playing for the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and Washington.
Upon being released by Washington in 2008, Jackson didn’t have to search too hard for his next step. Aside from playing cornerback/safety and being a track star, his teammates, family and fraternity brothers knew him well for throwing down in the kitchen.
Jackson got his penchant for cooking early on in life from helping his grandmother—who was a chef—make food for the schoolchildren in his town. “She cooked everything from scratch every single morning. She would make 300 scratch-made biscuits every morning. When I got to the age of 5or 6, I would go with her and help her make biscuits every morning. I tell people that’s where my love for cooking actually came. It all started with a biscuit.”
In college Jackson would sell homemade plates of meatloaf, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie and chocolate cake for $5 to teammates to keep money in his pocket. Food has always been a mainstay in Jackson’s life so when his football career was over, a conversation with his father pushed him into turning a hobby and former side hustle into a career.
“I had a conversation with my dad about what I want to transition to? He was like, ‘well the only other thing that I know that you love as much as football is food, so you need to figure out something to do with that,’ recounts Jackson. “So that’s exactly what I did.”
Jackson soon opened the Caribbean Grill food truck in Houston, TX, while also taking on clients as a personal trainer. A few years later, a friend signed him up for the reality cooking show competition MasterChef. He finished in eighth place, but a second shot at stardom was born out of the experience.
Two years later he won the eleventh season of Food Network’s Food Network Star show. Since then Jackson has gone on to host several Food Network shows including BBQ Blitz (he loves BBQ ribs), Kids BBQ Championship and Clash of the Grandmas.
Jackson’s newest show Christmas Cookie Challenge airs until December 18th on Food Network. The show finds the former DB judging multiple contestants holiday cookies on their quest to win $10,000. “I’ve hosted several TV shows before but this is my first time hosting an actual baking show so it kind of just gives me the ability to expand and really show what I can do,” he says. “I love cookies, but I just had no idea that so many people were into baking cookies and it’s amazing to see.”
As a chef and personal trainer Jackson is the perfect guy to provide balance between eating good and eating right during the holiday season, so we asked him to give a tip on not overdoing it this Christmas. “I preach moderation to all of my clients and I practice it myself. During the holidays, food is everywhere, desserts are everywhere, but you don’t have to eat everything. So just moderate and stay active all the time.”
Although he is in tip-top shape, Jackson definitely splurges on the holiday. His absolute favorite thing to eat this time of year is dressing. This year he upped the ante with what he calls “Eddie’s Dressed Up Mac.” His creation is dressing topped with Mac and Cheese, and it looks delicious.
Jackson says his friends always knew he’d make it in something dealing with food. That premonition has come to fruition in the form of TV shows, food trucks and a soon to open Food Truck Park and beer garden in Cypress, Texas. The Rosehill Beer Garden features live music, 18 TVs and 25 taps of craft beer. How’s that for a backup plan!