Former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, remembered as a beloved teammate whose optimism and ever-present smile stood the test of unfulfilled expectations, was killed Sunday night near his hometown of Montgomery, Ala. He was 36.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said Jackson’s 2012 Chevrolet Camaro left a road, struck a tree and rolled over.
“Most of all, he was a great young man — a great person,” former Vikings coach Brad Childress said. “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.”
Born April 21, 1983 in Montgomery, the 36-year-old Jackson was in his second year as quarterbacks coach at Tennessee State University after beginning his coaching career as quarterbacks coach at his alma mater, Alabama State, in 2018. He is survived by his wife, Lakitta, and children Tarvaris Jr., Takayla and Tyson.
“He always took in the good, spit out the bad and was right back out there getting after it the next day. He always dealt with the hand he was dealt.”
“He was really getting it all together right now,” Childress said. “It shows you how short life really is.”
In 2006, his first year as Vikings coach, Childress used a second-round draft pick to select Jackson.
“I know things didn’t go the way he had hoped they would as a high draft pick,” Hall of Fame guard Steve Hutchinson said. “But the one thing I’d say about Tarvaris is he always had a smile on his face. He was a good locker room guy.
“He always 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.”
Jackson played in 59 regular-season games for the Vikings (2006-10), Seahawks (2011, ’13-15) and Bills (2012). He went 17-17 as a starter, 10-10 with the Vikings. In two postseason appearances, he started when the 2008 Vikings were upset by the Eagles and threw one pass as Russell Wilson’s backup in Seattle’s 43-8 victory over Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII.
“Tarvaris was a pretty even-keeled guy,” former Vikings center Matt 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 and 2006 first-round draft pick Chad Greenway tweeted: “TJack was one of the best teammates and friends. Drafted together in 06’ and he will be missed.”
Meanwhile, his Seahawks family also said goodbye via Twitter.
Wilson tweeted a picture of a broken heart and wrote, “TJack ... you will be missed. Praying for your family ... Love you man.” And 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.”
Jackson started two games as Brad Johnson’s backup in 2006. In 2007, he went 8-4 but threw only nine touchdown passes with 12 interceptions as the Vikings missed the playoffs.
“We had one or two intense meetings in my office about the way he was playing,” Childress said. “He always took in the good, spit out the bad and was right back out there getting after it the next day. He always dealt with the hand he was dealt.”
A busy spring in 2008 was highlighted by the blockbuster trade for NFL sack king Jared Allen. Childress stuck with Jackson as the starter but turned to Gus Frerotte after an 0-2 start.
Forced to start the last three regular season games, Jackson went 2-3 helping the Vikings finish 10-6. In the 26-14 home wild-card loss to sixth-seeded Philadelphia, Jackson went 15 for 35 for 164 yards and a pick-six.
That game led to the most surreal offseason in team history as the Vikings courted and finally corralled longtime Packers nemesis Brett Favre at age 39.
“Neither Tarvaris nor Sage [Rosenfels, whom the Vikings had traded for] were wild about us signing Brett, I can tell you that,” Childress said. “But from a teammate standpoint, Tarvaris was good in the building, he was good with his teammates, he practiced hard, he was as good a sponge and listened to everything Brett had to say.
“And, most of all, he was a good person. Fun to be around.”
Favre and the Vikings had a magical 12-win season that fell one step short of the Super Bowl.
“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.”
Jackson made one final start as a Viking in 2010 when Favre’s record streak of 297 starts (321 including playoffs) came to an end. Jackson moved on to Seattle in 2011, going 7-7 while posting career highs for starts, yards passing (3,091), touchdown passes (14) and interceptions (13).
“One of Tarvaris’ greatest attributes was his positive outlook and approach,” the Vikings said in a statement. “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.”