Football comeback: Desmond Jackson
MOUNT ULLA — Desmond Jackson told the world “Good night” on Twitter on Monday shortly after 10 p.m.
It’s early-to-bed, early-to-rise these days for Jackson who will be back on a football field very soon.
He’s quick to admit he’s running a bit behind schedule. He’s always been a talented player and he was a difference-making tailback for West Rowan, but it’s also true that he tackled himself more than once with shaky moves off the field.
It wasn’t violent stuff. Just really-bad-decision stuff.
But most teenagers mess up some. Jackson sounds genuinely remorseful and he’s done with making excuses. He’s done some maturing in the past year.
“I made my mistakes, but I’m ready to move on and I’m ready to put everything behind me,” Jackson said. “I’m not a bad person and I really want to show people I’m not a bad person. I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to play football, and that’s an opportunity I am thankful for.”
Jackson kicked off his high school career as a jayvee freshman at North Rowan. He was one of the sons of Darryl Jackson, who had been a two-time county offensive player of the year as a Cavalier ballcarrier in the mid-1980s. That made expectations were sky-high.
Both Jackson brothers, defensive back Darryl Jr, as well as Desmond, transferred to West Rowan prior to the 2010 season. The brothers played significant roles as the Falcons pounded out 16 straight wins and won their third consecutive 3A state championship.
Jackson was the No. 2 tailback that season behind Dinkin Miller, but West was so strong that Jackson still rushed 150 times for 699 yards and scored seven TDs.
Jackson’s junior year in 2011 was a step backwards. His season was limited to six games. He missed one due to injury and the last nine because of disciplinary action. For the season, he rushed 74 times for 356 yards and scored six TDs.
In 2012, West had two 1,000-yard tailbacks, with both the reinstated Jackson and Daisean Reddick reaching the milestone. The thing to remember about Jackson is he tore an ACL in a 7-on-7 outing prior to that season. He braced it, toughed it out, and turned in a banner senior year — 226 carries and 1,326 rushing yards. He scored 14 TDs, 11 on the ground, plus three on receptions.
Jackson’s career, looking back, was pretty remarkable. A couple of varsity carries as a North freshman, a backup role as a sophomore, a handful of games as a junior, and a hobbled senior year, and he still produced 2,385 rushing yards. That total ranks him among the 30 most productive running backs in Rowan County during the last 50 years.
The good news is the knee is OK now. He rarely thinks about it.
“The doctor said I recovered from an ACL faster than anyone he’s ever seen,” Jackson said. “I’m healthy. I don’t even wear the knee brace anymore.”
Jackson isn’t big at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, but he’s quick enough to run by a lot of people. His video clips at West are full of him darting into a gaping hole created by West’s offensive line. Once he’s there, he blows by linebackers, splits DBs and heads for the end zone.
In the Carson game his senior year, Jackson broke scoring runs of 57, 45 and 68 yards. That was his career night — 14 carries for 226 yards,
After high school, Jackson went to Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania.
“There were a lot of court dates I had to attend because of those off-the-field issues I had,” Jackson said quietly. “There were some expensive round-trips home to deal with all that. We felt like the best thing I could do would be to just start all over this year.”
The place where Jackson plans to start over is Hudson Valley Community College in upstate town of Troy, N.Y. Hudson Valley is a place where there won’t be a lot to do except study and play football. Jackson is convinced that’s exactly what he needs.
The Hudson Valley Vikings definitely can use him. They’re not a power. They were 2-7 last season.
“I visited up there in May and committed,” Jackson said. “The coach (Mike Muehling) said they’ve got two big backs, but they can really use a scatback like me. I have a pretty good chance to start.”
Muehling isn’t just the football coach, he’s the academic coordinator for athletes. He served previously on the staff at Syracuse and Jackson said he’s still close friends with Syracuse coach Doug Marrone.
“He has a lot of connections,” Jackson said. “Go to Hudson Valley for two years and then maybe go to Syracuse and play in the ACC, that would be perfect. But I just hope to get offers in two years. I see guys I competed against like Keion (Adams) and Darien (Rankin) at the next level, and I believe I do it too.”
Jackson understands that to get a chance at any four-year school, he’s got to not only prove he can still do it on the field, he has to prove he can stay out of the papers off it.
He reports to Hudson Valley on Aug. 3. Between now and then, his father, who doubles as his personal trainer, is getting him ready physically.
Nothing fancy. He grinds out workouts Monday through Friday at the YMCA. Those are tough enough sessions that Jackson is counting down the days until he reports. He plans to major in criminal justice when he does.
“I’m going to focus on education and football, and everything else will follow from that,” he said. “I’ve had some very humbling experiences, but I’d like everyone to know I’m back on track.”