NSSA: Ronnie Gallagher column: Win over Michigan changed Jackson’s life
There were only six seconds remaining when Michigan lined up on the Appalachian State 20-yard line for a field-goal attempt that would win the game.
If you thought there was tension on the field, imagine being in the radio booth with David Jackson and color analyst Steve Brown.
“Gol-leee,” Brown uttered on the air in almost a whisper just before the ball was snapped.
Six seconds later, no one was whispering. Jackson was screaming out what would become the most famous call of the college football season.
When Corey Lynch blocked the kick and Appalachian State had won 34-32, Jackson went bananas:
“The Mountaineers of Appalachian State have just beaten the Michigan Wolverines in the Big House!”As Lynch’s teammates smothered him, Jackson and Brown had to somehow, some way collect themselves. As they went to a commercial break, they both realized there was a post-game show to do.
“I remember trying to grasp for the first time what had just happened,” Jackson said. “If Michigan wins, most people forget about the game before they walk out of the stadium. For us, it changed our lives.
“It is still changed.”
Jackson and his wife, Leila, are in Salisbury this week for the National Sportscasters & Sportswriters Hall of Fame Weekend. Jackson is representing North Carolina as its Sportscaster of the Year.
“It’s part of the ride,” smiled the personable redhead. “I’m very understanding of the fact that without the blocked field goal, somebody else is sitting here. I owe Corey Lynch a very nice dinner.”
Jackson says he doesn’t like the attention but because of his call, every college football fan in America knows who he is. That was the magnitude of what happened on Sept. 1, 2007.
He got a dose of what was to come during the post-game show.
“It was very surreal … our heads were spinning,” Jackson said. “As soon as the show was over, we had Mel Kiper Jr. on the phone wanting to talk to us. It didn’t stop for a week.”
When App. State arrived back in Boone, there were 10,000 people and two live ESPN crews waiting.
“And that’s just when we were walking off the bus,” Jackson laughed. “We were rock stars.”
The next day, he’s listening to his famous call over and over and over ó on ESPN, on the radio, on local TV channels. He has listened to people’s cell-phone ringers with his call.
While head coach Jerry Moore did over 150 radio interviews during the next seven days, Jackson seemed to be the second most popular Mountaineer.
“I had 75 myself,” he said. “But everybody had their shot. I think the waterboy’s girlfriend got on that week.”
If Jackson thought things would calm down the next Saturday when ASU played host to Division II Lenoir-Rhyne, he was badly mistaken. A crowd of 18,000 was expected. A crowd of 28,802 showed, the largest in school history.
Suddenly, Jackson and Brown were alongside the national media. The local paper, the Watauga Democrat, was rubbing elbows with the likes of the New York Times and Washington Post.
“Here’s an FCS team playing a Division II team,” whewed Jackson. “The national attention from the Michigan win just kept rolling forward.”
Losses to Wofford and Georgia Southern didn’t dampen the national enthusiasm. Two weeks after Michigan, the school had an open house and 17,000 showed. When the FCS playoffs began, the magic was still there. ESPN kept airing App. State’s games and Armanti Edwards & Company kept thrilling the audiences.
“I felt like all the stars were lining into place again,” Jackson said.
In the end, ASU had its third straight national title, but even after the season was over, the national media would not let us forget Appalachian State.
Jackson decided he’d sit back and watch a bowl game on Jan. 1. One of the first things he heard?
“The Mountaineers of Appalachian State have just beaten the Michigan Wolverines in the Big House!”
“To turn on a bowl game on New Year’s Day and hear that call, well, it’s just great for the university,” he said.
When someone talks football with Jackson, it isn’t about the three straight national titles. It’s about the win over Michigan.
So many emotions.
Julian Rouch quieted the Maize & Blue throng of 110,000 with his 24-yard field goal with 26 seconds left, but Mario Manningham immediately caught a 46-yard pass from Chad Henne.
With a snap of a finger, elation turned into deflation for Jackson.
“It was the equivalent of having a vacuum cleaner going and the cord being pulled out of it,” he said. “It was tough to stomach but it all happened so fast. But I knew that with our kick-blocking ability, we at least still had a shot.”
Lynch provided the shot heard ’round the world.
“For people who truly understand and love Appalachian, it’s been the ride we’ve all been waiting for,” Jackson said.
Wife Leila has been with him through it all. Like her husband, she is an Appalachian State grad. She delivered their first child, daughter Maren, a week before the Michigan game. (Maren calmly slept through the game, by the way).
“(Leila’s) probably tired of hearing that play call, I imagine,” Jackson chuckled.
Jackson grew up with a father, Randy, who was a well-known weatherman for WFMY-TV in Greensboro and he wanted to be on the air in some capacity. He chose sports, listening to his hero on the UNC network.
“Woody Durham is somebody I’ve idolized for a long time,” Jackson said.
Now, he’s got something in common with the UNC icon ó he is the North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year.
“If you’re a 6-year-old kid dreaming of being in this profession, you can’t dream of a better situation than winning at Michigan, followed by a national title,” Jackson said. “Being here is a tremendous honor.”
There’s really only one way to describe the past eight months of David and Leila Jackson’s life.
In the words of Steve Brown …
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.