Fate and dedication kept Edwin Jackson in Indy for fatal crash

INDIANAPOLIS -- Matthias Farley couldn't help but to continue to ask himself, "Why?"

Why did Colts teammate Edwin Jackson have to stay in Indianapolis on the weekend of Feb. 3 when he could have been with Farley in the woods hunting?

Why did Jackson have to be the one struck and killed by a drunken driver when he was doing the right thing by taking an Uber home?

But Farley realized some things are out of people's control after one of Jackson's brothers said, "I don't question God when he grants miracles," at the linebacker's funeral in February.

Jackson, 26, and Uber driver Jeffrey Monroe, 54, were hit and instantly killed along Interstate 70 just east of downtown Indianapolis while they were standing next to Monroe's car. Manuel Orrego-Savala, 37, has been charged with causing death while driving intoxicated and leaving the scene.

Jackson declined an opportunity to go hunting with Farley in Bremen, Indiana, which is more than two hours north of Indianapolis, because Jackson had a medical appointment that he didn't want to miss on his road to recovery from a knee injury that cost him the 2017 season.

"It goes to show the biggest illusion we live under is that we have time," said Farley, Jackson's best friend on the Colts. "There's a bigger plan than all of us, and I think you have to really appreciate the people you love and who are around you all the time, because people aren't going to be here forever. Ed did everything right. He was getting his body right, too. He had double labrum surgery on his hips. He was cutting and working out and finally getting back to how he could move. He was real excited about it. It's sad when anybody's life gets cut short, especially somebody like that. He was so infectious to everybody around."

Jackson had already defied the odds. He didn't start on the football team at Westlake (Georgia) High School. He was a walk-on at Georgia Southern University, a Football Championship Subdivision school. He went from being an undrafted rookie free agent in 2015 to starting eight games and finishing third on the team in tackles (66) with the Indianapolis Colts in 2016. And he had his sights on regaining his starting role in new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus' 4-3 defense while attempting to play a key part in getting the team to the Super Bowl in his home state of Georgia next season.

"You didn't think about it at the time, but Edwin had a lot of commitments going on," Jackson’s older brother, Adam, said. "He had wanted to take a trip to Hawaii. We had even talked about trying to go to the Super Bowl. The offers were there for him to do things. But all he was worried about was getting cleared medically. Only reason he was there that weekend is because he was meeting with medical people, going to the facility, working out, working on his craft. He was so zoned in strictly on football."

The sting of Jackson not being here is still there for Farley, and likely will be for years to come. Farley was picked up off waivers from Arizona in 2016 and immediately connected with his teammate when Jackson -- as he always did with new players -- came over and introduced himself. Jackson had been released by Arizona in 2015.

Farley, Jackson and fellow linebacker Antonio Morrison were inseparable. They had lockers next to each other, Farley and Jackson lived in the same apartment complex, and they talked about taking a trip to Chicago and to Europe at some point before training camp in late July. Morrison, through a team spokesperson, declined to be interviewed for the story.

Those possibilities came to a halt when David Thornton, the Colts' director of player engagement, called Farley on Feb. 4 to give him the news about Jackson.

"I just didn't think it was real when DT called me," Farley said. "I've experienced people passing. It's part of life, but you never think it's going to be somebody that you're that close to and somebody you saw a couple of days prior and we were planning trips.

"I think about him often. It's really, really terrible that it happened, but I know for a fact that he changed my life on how I view things and appreciate things. I think that ripple effect has gone on and touched a lot of people."

The pain of Jackson's absence is worse now that the Colts are back at the facility for offseason workouts and his contagious smile and positive attitude are missing. Jackson was given the nickname "Pound Cake" after he gave the Arizona staff some of his mother's cakes when he missed a flight to his pre-draft visit with the team in 2015.

"Ed exuded his passion in everything he did because he had already beaten the odds and was going to keep beating them," Farley said. "I don't think it was possible to say anything bad about him. Edwin believed in Edwin, and that belief had us all also believe in Edwin -- also made you believe in yourself, because he was a walking lighthouse. Always excited, always juiced up."

Farley got No. 53 tattooed under his arm following Jackson's death, and Adam Jackson named his infant son Edwin Wood Jackson after his younger brother.

A Reflection Of Off Season Past Creation

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Jackson's parents recently accepted his posthumous degree from Georgia Southern, and the school renamed its walk-on program the Edwin Jackson Memorial Walk-On Tryouts. Adam Jackson said the Edwin Jackson 53 Foundation will continue to award monetary scholarships to walk-on athletes at any NCAA institution no matter what sex.

"I feel like the world lost out on a jewel and we'll continue to work with his foundation to give out Edwin's message," Adam Jackson said. "He was very big in going back and telling his story and telling people he made it. Once he got that platform, he was going around and speaking to any ear that would listen. That's why we'll continue to do that."