'Canes Alumni Interview - James Jackson Pt. 2

In part 2 of James Jackson's exclusive interview with CanesTime.com, the former Miami runningback talks about military school, the importance of discipline on a football team, his arrival on campus as a freshman, and his intense competition with Edgerrin James. Read on to see what Jackson has to say!

CT – You took the military academy route. People didn't really understand the dynamic behind that back in 1996, but again, with today's enhanced media coverage we hear about players going that route all the time, including guys like current ‘Canes Orlando Franklin and Graig Cooper, amongst others. What do you think the benefits were of going to a military academy?

JJ – Oh, man, just complete discipline. It was a bit of a culture shock, it was what I needed honestly, because growing up in my household, it's not that my parents treated me differently, they never really did, but I was always…as long as I followed the rules, I could go as far as I wanted as far as waking up late and doing what I wanted to do. They would give me guidelines. As long as you follow rules A-F, then you're fine and you can do pretty much what you wanted to do. If I woke up late there wasn't really a punishment for it because I made Honor Roll the semester before. For me, when I got to Fort Union, I was in line with my grades and with what they wanted me to do but I still had to wake up on time etc., so it taught me how to be disciplined not just in what area so I can get what I want. They taught me to be disciplined with my athletics, with my books, with my time management. I have to say that was the one thing I took away from that that helped me the rest of my life. Time management. I wasn't necessarily bored at 11 o clock at night. I scheduled myself so I would eat at a certain time, work out at a certain time, watch film at a certain time, study at a certain time, and you know the rest of it I would listen to music or television and then I would wrap my day up and go to sleep.

CT – You hear a lot about kids getting in trouble with the law or slacking off in school. Do they have an excuse for this at their age? Do we have to remember that they are just kids?

JJ – You know, the "you're only a kid" thing only goes so far, because you're enabling them to act a certain way when you're just allowing them to use that as a copout and I don't agree with that. There are going to be kids that weren't from the greatest situations. I grew up in Belle Glade. It wasn't a great town to grow up, it was an impoverished town, there aren't really a lot of rich people who stay in Belle Glade. You can find something positive to do even in those kinds of situations. There's always something positive to be done. Going to the YMCA, Going to the gym and playing sports, doing after school activities. If you have an opportunity to play college ball and you have a college scholarship and you take a chance on doing something that will possibly make you lose that, then that's a choice and it's you saying, "you know what? I think it's more important to me to get whatever benefit I can from doing this bad stuff than playing ball." I don't really have any sympathy for that.

CT – Randy Shannon is viewed as a strict disciplinarian. Some might say he might even have been TOO strict. Do you agree or disagree with that?

JJ – You know what? When you're a coach and you want the respect of your team, there's no middle ground or grey area. When you're dealing with athletes, if we don't respect you then you're not going to get what you want from us. I need to be able to respect you as a man and know what you stand for. He will not tolerate doing anything outside of that. What you have to understand is that yes we're college athletes, but at the same time we're babies. You're dealing with an 18 year old. There have to be guidelines. There has to be rules, especially when you have someone who's just now leaving their parents home for the first time. A young adult who's never been away from home and now they have complete authority to do whatever it is their inhibitions allow them to do. If that's the case, there has to be some guidelines and something in place where they know "if I do this, something is going to happen." I agree with what Shannon is doing. He doesn't have to do it to the point where people feel stifled or anything. You don't want them to feel like they are in prison, but they can enjoy themselves in a respectful way and a disciplined way and still have fun. You know people always asked me why I didn't join a fraternity or something like that. The football team was like a fraternity. We did everything together. We went out together, we lived together. I lived with Ed Reed and Reggie Wayne off campus for probably two and a half years. We did everything together. We went shopping together, we cooked, we hung out, we went out dates together. We had fun with each other. It was kind of a "I'll watch your back, you watch my back" thing. They are going to be some nights where guys are going to have fun, they're going to drink together or play cards together but what happened was if one guy got drunk that night, I'd put him in the car and I'd take him home. Things were a lot different. We didn't need the coaches to discipline us. We pretty much were sheriffs of our own locker room. We didn't need Butch to come in and say "hey guys, don't get in trouble." We didn't need that.

CT – Well obviously you guys were a very disciplined and hungry football team because of the circumstances, coming out of probation and everything like that…could you even replicate that kind of discipline and drive again?

JJ – We came in and what you saw was a team of freshmen who came in after our first year and at the end of that sophomore year, after that UCLA game, a light flipped on, and we knew we were a good team. I can't even begin to explain it to you. Now what we started telling ourselves was, "ok, let's see how good of a football team we can become." It started that summer. "You're benching this much, you're running the 40 how fast? Your shuttle time? Let's see how much you can improve when you come back." I'll be honest with you, and this is something I've been wanting to say for a long time. Sometimes I am really disappointed in the bench press numbers that I see from our guys now. I don't blame that on Swasey. I am just really disappointed. There aren't enough leaders in that locker room that are pushing guys in the weight room to do what they need to be doing. I worked out with the defensive line. I never worked out with the running backs when it came to the bench press and things like that. I pushed myself. I was one of the smaller guys but I could max out at 425. I worked out with 350. I came into college and no lie I came in maxing like 345 or 335. When I see these kids, and there's only one or two who can get to that, I start thinking to myself "what's going on in the locker room?"Here's a true story. There was a game, I want to say it was a Florida State game, it's been a while, but we came back in the locker room at halftime and Butch Davis was on his way back into the locker room. Me, Nate Webster, and Dan Morgan stood up in the locker room and as soon as Butch came in, we immediately told him to get out of the locker room. We didn't need him to come in and beat anyone up. We already knew what we needed to do. We had already sat on the bench for the last four or five minutes watching the other team's offense so we were already pissed. I don't want to quote what we said to certain guys at times, but we would even tell certain guys not to go back into the game. I know that might sound harsh, but that is a true story. You can ask Damione Lewis, you can ask Santana Moss, anyone on that team, straight down the line, we told guys not to come back in the game, we don't care what the coaches told you , you haven't played well enough to be in the game. We told them that emphatically and they respected that enough not to go back into the game. That's how dedicated we were. We wanted to win no matter what. And when you were getting in the way of us winning, we felt that you needed to move out of the way. If we felt you weren't giving us everything you could give us as a teammate, then don't be a part of this.

CT – Obviously to get to that point it took a lot of blood sweat and tears, and I want to take it back a little bit. Coming out of high school, you went to military academy and spoke a bit about that, and finally you stepped on campus in 1997. That was a tough season for any Hurricane. 5-6 season, 47-0 against FSU at Doak Campbell Stadium. Can you just talk a little bit about that season? We know how special that recruiting class was but how trying was it to go through that season?

JJ – As a freshman, do you remember when they were allowing or rather making freshmen shave their heads? As far as I'm concerned, that played a big part in humbling us when we came in and letting us know that the team is more important than you are. It's about you fitting in with what's already here. When I came in, that made me buy into the whole team concept immediately. It made me put my ego aside, because I didn't want to cut my hair, and allowed me to buy into the team concept first. We're going to be balling together. It's about being a team. A lot of guys didn't want to buy into that but as far as I'm concerned, that was the most important thing.

CT – Who do you remember giving the most trouble with the head shaving ritual?

JJ – Ugh…Shockey. That is a really really easy one. Definitely Shockey. He did not want to do it. We chased him around and he just did not want to cut his hair. We literally had to hold him down through it. I think it was Nate Webster and Mondriel Fulcher or maybe Damione Lewis who had to hold him down through it.

CT – You get your head shaved and you start practice and everything like that. What was your outlook going into the season? You were behind Edgerrin James on the depth chart. How was it for you as a freshman to go through that season?

JJ – Well you know I didn't even feel Edgerrin should have been in front of me based on the way that we both performed in practice. I just kept on saying to myself that whenever I get my opportunity I'm just going to show them that they were wrong and I should be starting. That's how I kept my head up. I didn't think about transferring. What I decided was that I was going to outwork him. I'm going to get myself to where I need to be to get myself to be a better football player and that's how I attacked it and like I said, it didn't really take that much to motivate us. We didn't need the motivational speeches that much. That's how most of us bought into the whole competition thing.

CT – The next question should be easy then. Would you say that you were pushing Edge to be better as he was pushing you to be better?

JJ – Absolutely. I'll be honest with you. I don't think we would have been the running backs we became if we weren't with each other. He wouldn't have had to keep working as hard to keep his position and I wouldn't have had to work that hard to try to take someone else's position and earn my playing time had we not been there with each other. That played a major role in the players that we would eventually become

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