Michael Jackson Dyson was exactly what the Cleveland Browns needed when they moved to Baltimore.
Ray Lewis, the Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker, is usually credited as the Ravens’ first star player. But while Jackson — no relation to Michael Jackson, the King of Pop — wasn’t an All-Pro like Lewis, he was a capable player in his own right.
Unfortunately for Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens family, they had to mourn Jackson’s passing much earlier than expected.
Michael Jackson Dyson was a productive NFL receiver
A standout at Southern Miss and college teammate of Brett Favre, Michael Jackson — then lacking the Dyson part of his name — entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1991.
Dyson caught 17 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games (seven starts) as a rookie. Promoted to the starting lineup in 1992, Jackson turned 47 catches into 755 yards and seven touchdowns. Jackson’s numbers in 1993 (41 catches for 756 yards and eight touchdowns) and 1995 (44 catches, 714 yards, and nine touchdowns) were extremely similar.
Jackson’s breakout season came in 1996, when he turned 76 catches into 1,201 yards and a league-high 14 touchdowns to celebrate the Browns’ first season as the Baltimore Ravens.
Although Jackson’s numbers slightly dipped to 69 catches, 918 yards, and four touchdowns in 1997, expectations for him and his future in Baltimore were still high.
Only two years after leading the NFL in touchdowns, Jackson caught none in 1998 despite recording 38 catches and 477 yards. Jackson tried latching on with Seattle in 1999 but never played in the NFL again.
Jackson’s 2,596 receiving yards were the ninth-most in Ravens history through Sept. 26, 2020. Only three players — Todd Heap, Torrey Smith, and Derrick Mason — caught more touchdowns in a Ravens uniform than Jackson’s 18 scores.
Jackson may have inspired a generation of football players
Born Michael Dwyane Jackson Dyson, the Browns and Ravens receiver always went by Michael Jackson.
That changed in 1993, when Jackson changed his name to Dyson. The name change only lasted until that September, when he changed his name back to Jackson.
Still, Jackson unknowingly began a trend of NFL players changing their name or what they wore on their jerseys. Bengals star Chad Johnson, a decade after Jackson retired, changed his name to Chad Ochocinco because Johnson wore No. 85.
Several NFL players now wear suffixes or generational titles on their jerseys, whether it is Jr. Sr., or so forth.
Michael Jackson Dyson tragically died at age 48
When his playing days ended, Michael Jackson went into politics and was the mayor of his hometown, Tangipahoa, La., from 2009-12.
Eerily, Jackson took office in the same year that another Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, died from a drug overdose.
The Jackson best known for catching touchdowns, not signing or dancing, had his own tragic death in 2017. Jackson was killed in a motorcycle crash on May 12, 2017 in his hometown.
Jackson was only 48 when he died.