This is the story of a project, a 6-foot-7, 239-pound young man who loves the game of football so much he'll transform himself into whatever he needs to be to get on the field and stay there. Once upon a time, Tyree Jackson was a darn good quarterback at the University of Buffalo, who threw for 6,999 yards and 49 touchdowns by the time his career ended in 2018. Now he's trying to be a darn good tight end with the Eagles, who signed him over the winter and moved him to this new, very foreign position.
Two-plus weeks into Training Camp, Jackson is making progress.
"Every day is a day to learn. I've got great guys in the (tight ends) room in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers, veteran guys I'm learning from every day," Jackson said. "Every day it's something new to learn. When you make a switch, it's all new, but having those guys around who have done it at a high level for a long time has helped me a lot. I'm just out there, and whatever play is called, that's what I run. I have the privilege to play with really good quarterbacks. Those guys are really good and make the correct reads and get the ball to open players. It's been really fun."
Jackson is very much in the "raw" stages as he learns the nuances of the position. He knows he has a lot of frustrating moments in front of him, given everything that goes into the position. Jackson looks the part, for sure, but that's not going to win him a job. Tight ends are asked to do it all – block, run great routes, and catch the football in tight windows. The pass from a quarterback gets up on the tight end so fast and the reaction time has to be immediate with, as you watch the game, all kinds of defensive mayhem happening.
"It's getting better day by day," said Jackson, who made the decision to move to tight end in November. "It feels more and more natural."
Jackson is a late bloomer by athletic standards. He was only 5-9, he said, as a high school freshman, then sprouted to 6-foot in 10th grade, 6-3 the next year, and 6-5 as a high school senior. At Buffalo, Jackson topped out at 6-7 and by then he was killing defenses in the MAC, a multiple-threat quarterback who became the conference Player of the Year in his junior season. In that final year of college ball, Jackson threw for 3,131 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, adding another 161 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. The Bulls went 10-4 that season and played in the Dollar General Bowl.
After that season, Jackson declared his intention to enter the NFL Draft and he was invited to the 2019 Senior Bowl, where he won South Team MVP honors after completing 13 of 21 passes for 165 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. A look at the game roster revealed that Jackson was in strong company alongside fellow quarterbacks Daniel Jones, Drew Lock, Trace McSorley, Ryan Finley, Gardner Minshew, Jarrett Stidham, and Will Grier – all of whom are in the NFL as quarterbacks.
The outlier is Jackson, who signed with the Buffalo Bills following the 2019 NFL Draft and was among the team's final cuts after the preseason. He played for the DC Defenders in the XFL in 2020, completing 11 of 18 passes before the league folded. The Eagles signed Jackson to a reserve/futures contract in January 2021 and here we are. Tyree Jackson is a tight end. He is coming off his first preseason game, with his parents and brother in the stands. Jackson was targeted five times and he contributed two catches for 19 yards.
It was, in every way, a learning experience. The process of learning a new position continues.
"A tight end does everything – you have to pass protect, you have to run block, you run routes, you play special teams," Jackson said. "It's been awesome, and having guys like Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers in the room, it's been so helpful. They've done it all and they've been open books helping me. My coach, Jason Michael, has been in the league a long time and he's done this before. I've made a lot of progress. I've gotten better, but I also know that I have so much work to do on the nuances of the position.
"And playing against our defense every day has helped me. The preseason game was different than practice, but our defense is so talented and that has helped me a bunch every day."
The idea that Jackson is an "experiment" is a creation. The reality is that he's transitioned to a new position and he's made positive progress every day. A second preseason game awaits on Thursday night after a couple of joint practices against New England.
"I just focus on getting better every day. I know it's boring to hear but it's the truth," he said. "It's a great opportunity to play and I appreciate that. I didn't play last year, so every day I'm on the field is a good day. This is something I've always wanted to do. I love the game and I'm thankful to be here in this position. I'm just taking it one day at a time and doing the best I can each day."