After the NFL, in 1993, he returned to Happy Valley, where for the next seven years he coached the PSU wide receivers. Jackson was credited with mentoring such stars as Joe Jurevicius, who became an All-Big Ten receiver; Bobby Engram, twice an All-America and winner of Biletnikoff Award (for the nation's top collegiate receiver) in 1994; and Freddie Scott, who played four seasons in the NFL after a successful career at PSU.
When a former teammate, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, came calling in 2001, Jackson decided to return to the NFL, this time as a coach.
Starting in February 2001, Jackson coached wide receivers for the Steelers. Under his tutelage, in the 2001 season, Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward both recorded more than 1,000 yards receiving in a single season - the first time a pair of Steelers achieved the milestone in the same season.
Nevertheless, on Jan. 6, 2004, Jackson was fired from the Steelers. There had been complaints for much of the 2003 season that Burress wasn't producing, and Jackson was held accountable.
Penn State was then in need of a wide-receiver coach. But at a news conference Feb. 18, 2004, when asked who would be in charge of wide receivers, Paterno announced the appointment of McQueary.
Like Jackson, McQueary played for PSU - but as a quarterback. McQueary played for Joe Paterno from 1994 to 1997, a time when Jackson was coaching receivers. McQueary became a starter in 1997 and, in his first game, set a school record for passing yards en route to a 34-17 victory over the University of Pittsburgh. PSU went 9-3 that year and earned a bid to the Citrus Bowl. McQueary was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which recognizes college football's best senior quarterback.
McQueary tried to go pro after Penn State. After a tryout with the Oakland Raiders and some experience playing for the NFL Europe, he returned to PSU in 2000 to pursue a career in coaching. From 2000 to 2002, he was a graduate assistant. In 2003, he became an administrative assistant.
In 2004, McQueary was 29. He was a PSU alumnus and a former college quarterback with very limited coaching experience.
Kenny Jackson was then 42. He, too, was a PSU alumnus, but also was a former All-America at the very position that required expertise. He had coached at both the collegiate and professional level.
McQueary got the coaching job. And Jackson began work as a Big Ten television broadcaster, while devoting time to his daughter's golf career.
Last week, I asked Jackson if he applied for the wide-receiver coaching position in 2004. He told me that he never solicited the job, but that he was available.
"We never discussed it," he said, adding, "I never, ever went to anybody on that staff."
I asked him if, given the nature of how Paterno made decisions, would it have been necessary for Jackson to formally request the position in order to be considered?
"I know Joe well enough that he knew I was available, and if he thought it fit, OK, he would make it happen," he told me.
So does that mean he was interested?
"I would've done things if Joe thought it was important for me to be there."
Jackson told me that such hiring decisions often involve intangibles that an outsider might not appreciate. He referenced the Eagles' hiring of Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator by way of example, as well as the hiring of Paterno's replacement:
"Who thought Bill O'Brien would get this job? That's just how this business works."
He acknowledged that it was not so easy to move back into a coaching position like he held at Penn State once you have left.
And Jackson also praised McQueary's coaching abilities.
"Mike can coach. It's not like he didn't know how to coach football.
"I was around Mike my entire life. I watched him become a pretty good quarterback and earn that right," Jackson said. "Everything I did as a receiver coach, Mike saw. He watched me coach receivers every day for four years."
And then, as if speculating what might have run through Paterno's mind, he said:
"Mike was never leaving Penn State; Kenny might leave again."
Contact Michael Smerconish via www.smerconish.com. Read his columns at www.philly.com/smerconish