'Canes Alumni Interview - James Jackson Pt. 4

In Part 4 of former Hurricane runningback James Jackson's exclusive interview with CanesTime.com, Jackson talks a bit about the 1998 season, playing in big games, the drive and desire it takes to win late in ballgames, and some of the rivalries he enjoyed playing in. Read on to see what he has to say!

CT – Let's move on to 1998 now. Edge is still in the backfield and he's coming off a 1,000 yard season. I'm sure you were anxious to play. What was the 1998 season like for James Jackson?

JJ – That entire season in two words was exciting and frustrating at the same time. There were certain games where Edge would play and he wouldn't have a great game and they'd put me in and I'd have a pretty decent game and we'd come away with a victory. I felt I deserved the starting job. At no point in time did me and Edge's relationship turn sour or anything like that. I never felt any ill will or animosity towards him. That entire season was pretty much encapsulated that way. I'll be honest with you though, I think I may have talked him into leaving early. After that last game he said I really want to come back for another year, but I'm going to go ahead and get out early so you can get your shine. He left early of course. To be honest I wanted to leave early the next season. I thought I was going to run for 1800 yards and leave early too. That seaseon, like I said, for me it was that breakout season. That was when we realized how good we could be. Santana Moss changed from a "maybe/could be" a good receiver to "I know I'm a great receiver, let's see how great I can be." Same thing with Reggie Wayne. The game I remember mostly from that year was that UCLA game. I couldn't tell you how upset I was that I couldn't play because all season long we had been looking forward to that game and every scouting report we had on them showed me and Edgerrin that they were soft against the run and that we were going to have a big day with the run. I was hurt that game and I was so upset watching that game as I watched Edgerrin just completely rip them apart. I thought "oh my God, I could be in there getting a hundred". I just kept telling myself, that game hurt me in ways that I can't even…I wasn't thinking about my injury. I was thinking that I was missing out on the opportunity to be on a nationally televised game and I wasn't going to be able to showcase my abilities. I wanted to put myself out there just like Edgerrin was putting himself out there. I was happy that he was having a great game, I just wanted to be in that great game with him.

CT – That game was pushed back because of the hurricane. Do you think you guys could have beaten them had you played earlier in the season when you hadn't necessarily grown as a team to the point where you had turned the corner already? Does a more inexperienced 1998 Hurricanes squad beat UCLA? You guys had just come off a huge loss to Syracuse, too.

JJ – You know what, that's a good question. I'm not sure to be honest with you. Going into that game, it's probably a good thing that the hurricane did take place because had it not, then that game probably would have been a little different. There's no doubt that game would have played out different. Obviously as you move during the season you gel more. What can you can do offensively, everything starts going the way you want it to as far as the game is concerned. It was a little bit of fate and intervention there. As a team you're going to circle some games and that was one of the games we had circled. It was a game where we really wanted to bring our A game. Edge put that team on his back though. I told him in the locker room that he put us on his back that day. After that we sat on the phone like three or four nights in a row going back and forth on whether or not he should come back. I really wasn't trying to convince him to leave, I really wanted him to come back so we could play together. But obviously he was in a position to leave early. As far as Syracuse goes, that just happened. That was just ridiculous. I actually talked to McNabb about that game and he told me "that was the pinnacle of my career" because the year after that we killed them. 45-13.

CT – Some say that they are driven to win ballgames not because they love winning but because they hate losing so much.

JJ – Honestly I can't really say. I'd rather win but losing didn't bother me as long as I felt like everyone gave it their all. If we gave 100% and we didn't leave anything left on the field, it would bother me but it wouldn't bother me that much because I didn't feel like someone was letting us down. A lot of times, and no offense to Doctor Uribe, but I wouldn't come out even if I was injured. I played all of 1999 with a dislocated shoulder and a high ankle sprain. When I came to the sideline, I noticed that my shoulder bone wasn't on my shoulder anymore. I kept trying to adjust it and figure out what was wrong with it, and my shoulder was out.

CT – Something else that I've heard consistently is that people would stay in games to play hurt because they were scared that if they did sit out, the guy behind them would take their job? In 1999 you had Najeh who got hurt in the first game, but you also had a young guy named Clinton Portis who wasn't lacking in confidence at all. Were you worried that if you sat out you just wouldn't get your job back?

JJ – Well that was definitely always in the back of your mind because you had guys sitting on the bench and waiting for an opportunity to play. For me it was like 40% of that and 60% that I just didn't want to let my team down. If I could go I could go. There's a difference between being injured and hurt. If I felt I was injured and wouldn't have the ability to help my team by running the ball, then I wouldn't play. But if I could play and play with a little pain and still play with the same amount of ability, the ability to make moves and outrun guys and move the chains, then I would play. It was more a thing of not letting my teams down. Do you remember 1998 Miami FSU game? Those rivalries meant so much to us. They mean a lot to the fans but they meant a ton to us. It was a game to see how well you were going to play against big time competition and guys you grew up playing against or with. That for me was a big thing. Then we had the game in 2000 when we had "the drive," and honestly that game…I believe that was the game when Dan Morgan threw up on the field. Go back and look at the third quarter of that game. You'll notice that me and Dan weren't in the game that much in the third quarter, and we weren't even on the sideline.

CT – Dehydration?

JJ – Exactly. We were both in the locker room dehydrated.

CT – That must have been tough to do, especially in a close game like that where they started to come back and grabbed the lead at one point…

JJ – We both tried to get out of the locker room. Dan's body completely locked up on his way out of the locker room. One of my legs completely locked up on the way out. They had to drag us back to the table and put the IV back into us. The whole time we were just sitting there looking at each other and saying, "we have to get up." We couldn't get up until we got the IVs. I gave everything I had to the point where my body was completely exhausted. That first half, blocking, running the ball as hard as I could. Doing what I could to help.

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