Starting left tackle Alaric Jackson shakes up diet for senior season

The four-year starter made the switch to a vegan diet in the offseason, and the results are already noticeable.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa offensive lineman Alaric Jackson prepares to block during a football game between Iowa and Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, October 5, 2019. The Wolverines celebrated homecoming and defeated the Hawkeyes, 10-3.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

The Iowa football team has a 6-foot-6, 320-pound vegan starting at left tackle this season.

Alaric Jackson is entering his fourth year as the Hawkeyes’ anchor on the left side of their offensive line. The All-Big Ten performer is already among the conference’s best offensive tackles, but his change to a vegan diet this offseason has, so far, been beneficial for him.

“I don’t think I’ve coached a vegan before,” offensive line coach Tim Polasek said. “He no longer appreciates my pictures of meat, the turkey I smoke. He’s not interested in that.”

Roasting jokes aside, Polasek said there might be something to Jackson’s new eating habits.

“He’s quicker, he’s more sudden,” the coach said. “I see a change in the morning [workouts]. He’s got a little more energy, so maybe there is something to that. Maybe we should all take some notes.”

Despite slimming down, Jackson said he hasn’t lost any weight. The Detroit native used his diet to trim fat while maintaining muscle. The change was made, he said, in an effort to live a healthier lifestyle.

“It’s just that I think it’s better to have this lifestyle football-wise, that’s all,” Jackson said. “To each his own, for the most part. I don’t think it’s unusual or anything. I’m just eating [other] food instead of eating meat.”

Jackson met with Iowa’s interim strength and conditioning coach Raimond Braithwaite before making his dietary change. Each Iowa football player follows a nutrition plan designed for them, and the left tackle had to be reevaluated.

“I was like, ‘OK, now we have some work to do,’” Braithwaite said. “We have to reorganize some things to keep you where you need to be physically so there’s no drop off in your performance.”

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He went on to say that Jackson’s transition seems to be working out on a personal level.

“It’s healthy for him,” Braithwaite said. “From our perspective, we’re just trying to help him and coach him to make sure it works in the realm of the sport of football. It is doable. It’s a challenge, but it’s very doable. I supported him becoming vegan.”

As a redshirt junior in 2019, Jackson missed three games because of an injury. Despite having the opportunity to enter the 2020 NFL Draft, he opted to return for his senior season as a Hawkeye.

A member of the Outland Trophy preseason watch list, he’s set to lead Iowa’s blocking crew this season. Lining up next to him is a variety of guards vying for the starting spot.

Sophomore Cody Ince is listed as Iowa’s starting left guard on the team’s preseason depth chart, with sophomore Luke Empen and senior Cole Banwart also in competition for that spot. Tyler Linderbaum enters his second year as Iowa’s starting center, and junior Kyler Schott is currently Iowa’s top right guard, followed by Banwart and redshirt freshman Noah Fenske.

Opposite Jackson at right tackle, Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said Indiana graduate transfer Coy Cronk — who started 40 games in his career with the Hoosiers — is currently the Hawkeyes’ starter. Junior Mark Kallenberger is also in the mix.

The Hawkeyes’ experienced line should be a strength for a team that could have a very potent offense in the upcoming season. The low-key, soft-spoken Jackson is undoubtedly a leader in Iowa’s locker room.

“This guy has had a really good start to the 2020 season, and I’m happy for him,” Polasek said. “In the group, he’s one of those guys that’s trying to drive the standard. We’re really trying to emphasize in there that this needs to be a player-driven room, and everybody is accountable for the other guys that are out there.”

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