Jackson a Great Addition

Urban Meyer has done a lot of good things in his three years as coach of the Florida Gators, but his addition of Terry Jackson to the coaching staff immediately jumps to the upper tier of decisions the Florida head man has made. Jackson will always be one of my favorite non "star" players in Gator history and having him working hand in hand in the program is a very positive move.

Time will tell exactly what the title "Director of Player and Community Relations" really means, but that's not the main thing. The main thing is that a program that rarely gives opportunities to its own has done so in a significant way. Terry Jackson is the perfect guy to change that situation for a number of reasons.

No a Great Player, but a Great Gator

Terry Jackson was not an All American at Florida. Nor was he an All-SEC performer in Orange and Blue. Jackson was not a five star or four star recruit. In fact, he was an afterthought recruit out of P.K. Yonge School back in 1994. Jackson was a high school teammate of Travis McGriff who got an early scholarship offer from the Gators, but Terry did not.

Just like his brother a few years earlier, Terry Jackson desperately wanted to be a Gator just like his trailblazing father Willie Jackson Sr. who was one of the first two black players (Leonard George was the other) to get scholarships from the University of Florida. Just like Willie Jr., Terry had to wait and wait for the offer to come.

I remember talking on an almost daily basis with Jackson's coach John Clifford about the waiting game Terry was going through. Just as I had done with Willie several years earlier, I personally lobbied the UF staff to give the kid a chance. Then, one day a week or so before signing day Coach Clifford called to let me know that Florida had finally offered Terry a scholarship and that he was going to be a Gator.

Where to Pay Him?

One of the key questions about the versatile Jackson was where to play him on the football field. Having seen him in high school it was obvious he could play on either side of the ball. Jackson could play either safety position, either outside linebacker spot on defense and possible corner. He could also be a fullback, tailback or slot receiver on offense. So I asked his high school coach where Terry should play at UF.

"I'd play him at running back", was the response from Clifford. Well, that's just what the Gators did except for a two week tour of double duty and Jackson did a fine job. He was never the Gators feature back, but he was always the Gators most complete football player. He also produced one of the great highlights in UF history with his flip into the end zone as he scored the national title clinching touchdown against FSU in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 1996 season.

Terry had a nice pro career, helping the San Francisco 49ers on offense and special teams over several seasons. No, he was never a great one, but I promise you every team he was on was glad to have him.

Now he begins a new chapter to his career and his family's legacy at the University of Florida. Whatever the Gators ask him to do, he will do well. Terry Jackson is a special person and a tremendous addition to the UF camp. Now let's hope this is the beginning if a trend at a place where far too few UF graduates are part of the program.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel

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