GREGG BELL from the Associated Press explains the influence of “the Inner Gmae of tennis” on the career and playing style of Seattle Seahawks defensive end, Lawrence Jackson.
RENTON, WASH. — Thick playbooks aren’t the only literature Lawrence Jackson dives into during the season.
Let’s see, there’s “Zen and the Art of Archery.” Other entries on Eastern Religion. “The Inner Game of Tennis.” And, for more contemporary awareness, Time Magazine.
He also writes a personal journal.
The Seahawks’ second-year defensive end is currently preparing for Sunday’s game against Jacksonville while he rereads “Zen and the Art of Archery.” The widely acclaimed book introduced Zen thinking to Europe soon after World War II.
“It’s about transcending your technique so you can make it an art form,” Jackson said of the short narrative by Eugen Herrigel. “I’m a thinking person.”
Jackson’s problem during his rookie season as Seattle’s first-round draft choice was that he thought too much. He tried to compute all the game film, game plans and tendencies of opposing offenses during the split second after the ball was snapped. His head was sent spinning, as much by all the data in his noggin as by the blockers and the ball that sped past him.
He was considered a huge disappointment, thrown by many into a pile of underachieving Seahawks top picks from recent years that includes defensive backs Josh Wilson and Kelly Jennings.
But, with his own coaching future in mind, Jim Mora helped Jackson find his way through his self-made fog.
Still the Seahawks’ defensive backs coach under Mike Holmgren, Mora met a couple of times each week during the 2008 season and then after it with this supposedly fiendish pass rusher who had zero sacks in his final 14 games.
“He understands I’m a thinking person,” Jackson said of Mora, now the Seahawks’ head man. “He said, ‘Lawrence, do all the thinking you have to do during the week, so that when you get to Sunday you just play.'”
“Because when you think,” Jackson said, “you lose a step.”
He’s gaining ground now. Faced with Mora’s public preseason mandate that he must start fulfilling Seattle’s high expectations for him, Jackson has three sacks in four games. That’s one more than he had in 16 games last year. He also has four quarterback hits, also one more than he had in all of ’08.
The forgotten 28th overall pick and second-team All-American as a senior at Southern California has, in one month, ascended from an endangered part-timer.
Now, he’s the end Seattle summons for pressure on passing downs. And his importance will grow against the Jaguars (2-2), with two-time Pro Bowl end Patrick Kerney questionable to play because of a strained groin.
“(He’s) quietly becoming a pretty darn good football player,” Mora said. “One of the hidden jewels, I guess you could say, in the 1-3 start is the play of Lawrence.”
From a strict football perspective, Jackson is simply more consistent, according to first-year defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
“Now, every game you are seeing him get some pressure,” Bradley said Thursday. “I just think he’s matured.”
But there’s more to it than that for the 24-year-old.
In Mora, he seemingly has a coach similar to USC’s Pete Carroll. The renowned players’ friend and free thinker gave Jackson the 1974 book “The Inner Game of Tennis” during his redshirt junior season to get Jackson to relax more during games, to not try so hard and let his athletic ability flow more easily.
“Jim’s a great leader,” Jackson said of Mora. “He understands what it takes to separate yourself from the norm.”