Drake Jackson

How Kocurek challenge helped Jackson fall in love with NFL grind

Luckily for 49ers defensive end Drake Jackson, he has defensive line coach Kris Kocurek in his corner as he looks to make a jump in Year 2.

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Drake Jackson is looking to prove himself as an NFL defensive end in his upcoming second season with the 49ers.

And luckily for him, he has defensive line coach Kris Kocurek on his side, who has helped the 22-year-old embrace the grind that comes with being one's best this offseason. 

"Definitely been in that training room a lot, man," Jackson told reporters during 49ers OTAs this week. There were plenty of questions about how maintains his speed and bend on the edge after bulking up to 265 pounds this offseason, up from 252 pounds in 2022.

"One thing I would say I changed from my rookie year to now is just being in here all day," Jackson continued. "I’m starting to fall in love with being here countless hours in the tubs, in the training room ... Just trying to better myself, and I don’t think I was doing that last year. …

"I just kind of left after [workouts], not really focusing on my body, I would say. So this year, definitely would say I’m honing in and really taking the time to focus on myself and on my body and what I need to go out there and keep doing it all over and over again."

The 49ers' second-round pick of the 2022 NFL Draft dealt with some rookie inconsistencies throughout his first season, and by its end, Jackson's body had worn down so much he was inactive for five of San Francisco's final six games. Not only should the weight he added this offseason help him handle a more expanded role along the line, but his newfound dedication to the training room should help his durability as well.

And, according to Jackson, it all started with a challenge from Kocurek. The coach had a "big time" influence on Jackson's offseason, he explained.

"After the season when we went on our little break or whatever, [Kocurek] had told me to tell him when I was going to be back," Jackson said. "Since the day I got back, he was with me every single day in the weight room, telling me, 'Are you going to stack a day, or are you just going to let this day stack on you?'

"I like challenges and I think he knows that, so he just challenges me every day to come stack a day, and I’ve been doing it. He’s been with me along the way, I would say."

RELATED: 49ers DB coach challenges rookie Brown to learn from Gipson

Kocurek is known for his vocal antics on the practice field, and it's clear things are no different in the weight room. Shortly after Jackson was drafted by the 49ers last year, he expressed how excited he was to work with Kocurek -- and his quote from back then is telling of the relationship the two would share in the future.

"I love to play for a coach that is fired up like that and wants a lot out of his guys. It’s a challenge, and I’m willing to take on that challenge," Jackson said last April.

Challenge accepted by Jackson. And, soon, the 49ers Faithful certainly hope to reap the rewards.

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