This article originally appeared on USA TODAY Sports+: J.C. Jackson is in Los Angeles because of Derwin James' powers of persuasion

J.C. Jackson is in Los Angeles because of Derwin James' powers of persuasion

The Chargers were aggressive in their defensive overhaul. Some of their new players, including Jackson and Khalil Mack, are excited to be part of the team because of existing relationships.

Tyler Dragon
USA TODAY Sports+

It started in Las Vegas.

That's where Derwin James made his initial recruiting pitch to J.C. Jackson during the 2022 Pro Bowl.

The former Florida high school 7-on-7 teammates maintained a strong friendship as they both grew into professional football players — James a safety for the Los Angeles Chargers and Jackson a cornerback for the Patriots.

Together again as Pro Bowlers, James began plotting a more permanent reunion.

And what happened didn't stay in Vegas. 

A little more than a month later, Jackson signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Chargers.

"He was like, 'I’m going to get you up here. You need to come ball with me,'" Jackson said. "It happened. It’s crazy. I’m excited, and I know that he’s excited.

"It’s crazy how it all comes back around in a circle. We knew each other back then, and now we get to play with each other? It doesn’t get any better than that."

New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson celebrates after an interception in the end zone during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

After a career year with the Patriots, Jackson said he told his agent at the outset of free agency he wanted to be in Los Angeles.

Why?

“Having that relationship with Derwin James, first of all," Jackson said. "It’s a young, up-and-coming team. I just felt like it was the right move for me and my family.”

CHARGED UP:The Chargers showcased offseason urgency with J.C. Jackson signing 

The Chargers' other marquee acquisition, Khalil Mack, also had a previous relationship with team personnel. Los Angeles head coach Brandon Staley was the Chicago Bears' outside linebackers coach when Mack arrived via trade in 2018.

This season, it was the Bears who traded Mack. However, his sense of nervousness dissipated after realizing he would reunite with Staley

"Having a relationship with Coach Staley and knowing his mindset and his passion for the game, it kind of went from bittersweet to excited, knowing who I’m dealing with and the type of man that he is, first and foremost, and how much he truly loves the game of football," Mack said. "You can feel that whenever you speak to him, not just understanding the football aspect, but the man and the relationship that we have, and what we were able to do while we were together. I got excited." 

The Chargers were aggressive in their defensive overhaul. Los Angeles ranked 23rd in total defense and last in third down defensive efficiency last year. Jackson will help fortify the secondary and Mack brings toughness upfront. 

Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) practices before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Soldier Field.

The duo adds to a stout Chargers defensive unit, including fellow Pro Bowlers James and Joey Bosa. 

There might not be a team that’s upgraded their defense more than the Chargers so far, and it all started with prior ties to Jackson and Mack — the crown jewels of the team's aggressive offseason.

"When you talk about Joey Bosa, Derwin James, J.C. Jackson, Asante Samuel Jr. — all of these different intangibles," Mack said. "And these guys are very explosive players and explosive playmakers.

"I’m looking forward to putting in the work and winning ball games."

Follow USA TODAY Sports+ NFL Insider Tyler Dragon on Twitter @TheTylerDragon.