Tarvaris Jackson, former NFL quarterback, dies in car crash

Former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, 36, died near Montgomery, Ala., when his car left the road, struck a tree and rolled over.
JEFF WHEELER/MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE/TNS

BY MARK CRAIG
STAR TRIBUNE (MINNEAPOLIS)/TNS

MINNEAPOLIS – Tarvaris Jackson, who started 21 games at quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings from 2006-10, was killed in a one-car crash the night of April 12. He was 36.

Jackson, who was the quarterbacks coach at Tennessee State, died near Montgomery, Ala., when his car left the road, struck a tree and rolled over, ESPN reported.

“Most of all, he was a great young man — great person,” said former Vikings coach Brad Childress. “I think to be able to spend 10 years in the National Football League when the average is whatever it is kind of speaks to him being a great teammate, a good player. … It’s just a reminder that we’re not here for long.”

Childress drafted Jackson out of Division II Alabama State with the final pick in the second round in 2006. He helped the Vikings into the playoffs in 2008 and started in a wild-card playoff loss to the Eagles before backing up Brett Favre in 2009 and 2010.

‘Pure class’

“My time with the Vikings was very special because the team embraced and welcomed me as one of their own,” Favre said in a statement issued by the team. “Tarvaris could have been anything but welcoming, but (instead he) was pure class and as good a teammate as any I’ve played with. (I’m) proud to call him friend!! Such sad news.”

Said Matt Birk, the Vikings center with Jackson from 2006-08: “That’s tragic. It puts things in perspective. You put as much into your career as you can, then you have this picture of when your career is over you can kind of be able to relax and live the good life. That’s sad.”

Backed up Russell

Jackson was the starting quarterback for Seattle in 2011 before being traded to Buffalo for a seventh-round pick. He returned to the Seahawks to back up Russell Wilson from 2013-15. Jackson played briefly during the Seahawks’ 43-8 victory over Denver in 2014 Super Bowl.

Wilson tweeted a picture of a broken heart and wrote, “TJack … you will be missed. Praying for your family … Love you man.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll tweeted, “So heartbroken by the news of his passing and sending our condolences to his family and friends. We love you forever @7tjackson.”

Life in Minnesota

Childress said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski flew to Alabama to scout Jackson before the 2006 draft.

“Kevin and Bev went down there and spent time with him. They came back obviously liking him. And I liked him too,” Childress said.

“For a kid from the South to come up to Minnesota, that’s a whole different world. But he blended in seamlessly, and with adversity involved. He was there front and center when we brought Brett Favre to town, and was still a great teammate and as good a sponge and listened to everything Brett had to say about the game. He always dealt with the hand that was dealt to him.”

‘Pep in his step’

Jackson played in 59 NFL regular season games, starting 34. He was 17-17 as a starter. With the Vikings, he threw 24 touchdown passes and had 22 interceptions in 36 games, with a passer rating of 76.6.

“The one thing I’d say about Tarvaris is he always had a smile on his face,” said guard Steve Hutchinson. “He was a good locker room guy. … He was always a guy who had a pep in his step. Never seemed down. And that’s a tribute to him because it seemed every time he had an opportunity to be a starter or contend for it, somebody else was brought in to compete with him or take it over.

“That being said, he always had a good attitude, a good smile and was a pleasure to be around.”

‘A good teammate’

The Vikings lost to the Eagles 26-14 in a playoff game at the Metrodome on Jan. 4, 2009. Asante Samuel intercepted a Jackson pass and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown; Jackson was 15-for-35 for 164 yards in the loss.

“Tarvaris was a pretty even-keeled guy,” Birk said. “Had a great sense of humor even though a lot was expected of him. A lot was put on him but he didn’t take himself too seriously.

“He was a good teammate. … It’s really sad.”

Former teammate Chad Greenway tweeted, “TJack was one of the best teammates and friends. Drafted together in ’06 and he will be missed.”

Married with kids

Jackson, who started his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater in 2018, is survived by his wife, Lakitta, and three children.

The Vikings issued this statement: “One of Tarvaris’ greatest attributes was his positive outlook and approach. He genuinely cared about others, was a good friend and will be missed by family, teammates and Vikings fans everywhere. We send our deepest condolences to his family.”

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