nate jackson
Nate Jackson #81 of the Denver Broncos gets tackled after catching a pass by Brodney Pool #21 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 6, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Credit: Joe Robbins / Getty Images

Former Denver Broncos tight end Nate Jackson, 34, toiled from 2003 to 2008 as an anonymous grunt in the NFL trenches – a perspective that makes his memoir, 'Slow Getting Up,' a can't-put-down read: It's the story you never hear. Jackson is the rarest of combinations, an NFL player who can actually write.

Unlike most modern sports memoirs – bland accounts by megastars more concerned with building car-dealership empires than compelling narratives – Jackson's book spares no punches. In sharp prose, he writes about swigging cognac from a Gatorade bottle as a benched player during a game, shooting HGH in the off-season, and, after he moved to the Cleveland Browns, his team's seething hatred of "Coach [Eric] Mangini, a doughy, 38-year-old frat boy with parted hair and a butt chin."

Jackson winds up in the NFL through sheer determination. After playing D-III football at Menlo College, he scores a spot on the Broncos practice squad. The book's best scenes spotlight his struggles at the bottom of the heap: paying $26,000 dinner tabs for established pros like Clinton Portis, attempting to impersonate Randy Moss for Denver's starting defense before they play the Minnesota Vikings, and using his credentials to purchase Super Bowl tickets just to scalp them.

In the vein of raw, 1980s-era NFL memoirs like Jack Tatum's 'They Call Me Assassin,' Jackson's tale exposes the NFL for what it is: a job. "To be in the NFL," he states, "you can't be in awe of the NFL."