Ex-Gopher RB Terry Jackson led SIU to 10-1 mark

Terry Jackson left Minnesota and transferred to Southern Illinois after losing playing time to standout Gopher running backs Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber. Jackson had rushed for 1,317 yards in 2002, earning him honorable mention All-Big Ten. However, he had just 55 carries last season. Unfortunately, he landed on a team perhaps almost as talented and deep with the move to the Salukis, which finished the season ranked as the number #1 team in NCAA Division I-AA.

Terry Jackson finished the regular season with 87 carries for 441 yards (5.1 per carry) with two scores. However, that was just third on the Salukis in rushing.

Brandon Jacobs, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound power back with 4.5 speed who transferred from Auburn on March 31, rushed 125 times for 826 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns. Jacobs is considered a top-five running back prospects in the 2005 NFL Draft.

Arkee Whitlock, a JC transfer from Coffeyville (KS) CC, carried the ball 135 times for 874 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns.

The Salukis have excellent depth at running back and also have Craig Turner, who had 29 carries for 337 yards (an amazing 11.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, and Antoine Jackson carried the ball 44 times for 298 yards (6.8 yards per carry) and one score.

Jackson missed the William Penn game with a hip pointer, but bounced back against Delaware State to lead the team in rushing with 93 yards. He missed the SW Missouri State game with a hamstring injury, but rushed for 55 yards last week at Illinois State. He did not play in two games and carried six times for three yards against Northern Iowa and six times for negative two yards against Western Illinois.

Jackson had his best game of the season in the regular season finale, as he had 14 carries for 95 yards in a 59-10 win over Indiana State. However, even in that game, Jackson was just third on the team in rushing. Jacobs rushed for 122 yards and Jackson had 102 yards in the win over the Sycamores.

The No. 1-ranked Southern Illinois University football team is anticipating a top seed when the I-AA Playoff bracket is announced Sunday, and figure to draw a home game next Saturday.

Jackson was recently featured in a stroy on the Saluki website. The following is the feature from Scott Mees:

The Southern Illinois University football team caught a lucky break when Terry Jackson decided to leave the University of Minnesota.

The senior Saluki tailback - who rushed for more than 1,300 yards in 2002 for the Golden Gophers - decided on SIU because his high school coach, Don Durrett, knew SIU head coach Jerry Kill. The Saluki coach helmed Saginaw Valley State's football team prior to his position at SIU.

"I looked at the Gateway because I had a buddy (Demetrius Johnson) who transferred to Illinois State," Jackson said. "He was just telling me that the Gateway is a really tough conference in I-AA."

Jackson, who graduated from Saginaw High School in Michigan, thought about a few schools but turned things over to Durrett.

"I let my high school coach do the calling, and he found coach Kill," Jackson said. "So, it was a perfect connection."

During his prep career, Jackson rushed for 1,784 yards his senior year and scored 21 touchdowns, including a state championship game-winner.

In 2002, while attending Minnesota, Jackson was on top of the world.

A spectacular season rushing the ball and attention from the national media were just a few of his achievements.

However, the following year, things changed.

Marion Barber - injured during the previous season - became the starter in the backfield, and Jackson ended up with only 55 carries for the season. The team even decided to move him to the wide receiver position.

All of this after Jackson ranked sixth in the Big Ten in rushing the year before. The conference also named him honorable mention at season's end.

"It felt like a slap in the face," Jackson said. "But ultimately, it was one of the best things for me. Playing receiver forced me to learn to always look the ball in and tuck it away. Now I can catch just about anything they throw to me. "

Those new receiving skills should come in handy when quarterback Joel Sambursky throws a short pass into the flat this season.

"Now, when I get out here and they throw me a swing pass, 99 percent of the time I'm going to catch it," Jackson said.

Even after a sour end to his Minnesota career, Jackson recalls fond memories of his accomplishments during his phenomenal junior season at Minnesota.

"Besides my son being born, that was the greatest moment of my life," Jackson said. "I was just thanking God every time I got out there to play."

Despite the fact that the Michigan State campus is closer in proximity to Saginaw, Jackson has rooted for the University of Michigan since his early childhood.

"That was my dream, to play for the Wolverines," Jackson said. "My brother got the chance, and I'm happy for him."

Jerome - Jackson's younger brother - is a sophomore running back for Michigan. The two siblings share an exceptionally close relationship. The Saluki tailback considers Jerome to be his best friend.

"He means that much to me," Jackson said. "I can call Jerome whenever I have a problem."

Reading poetry and drawing are two activities in Jackson's eclectic range of hobbies.

"I think poetry is about what you get out of it," Jackson said. "It's about how you feel after you read it, or what message you're getting from it."

Whenever he has free time, Jackson likes to draw pictures that he displays in a very special place.

"Drawing is just something I started doing out of reading comic books," Jackson said. "I started doing it more once my son was born, just to put pictures up in his room."

Jackson takes great pleasure in watching cartoons on television as well.

"I know that might sound crazy for a 22-year-old man, but I have a son," Jackson said. "In order to have a great relationship with him, I'm going to have to watch cartoons."

When he's not in class or chasing after his 3-year-old boy, Jackson continues to work hard for the football team.

The senior has already had some ups and downs with the Salukis. He missed the William Penn game with a hip pointer, but bounced back against Delaware State to lead the team in rushing with 93 yards. He missed the SMS game with a hamstring injury, but rushed for 55 yards last week at Illinois State.

On the season, he has 346 rushing yard and a healthy 4.7 average.

"All I have to do is make the most of it when I'm in there," Jackson said. "They are going to keep the hot back in the game. I've just got to make the most of my opportunities."

Jackson takes great pride in his performance and is a student of the game.

"I try to know what's going on at all times," Jackson said. "I try to learn what everybody has to do. So when I go out there and run, I know exactly where I can cut and where I can go."

Kill said he enjoys coming to work with players like Jackson around.

"He has a great attitude," Kill said. "He is a big part of our offense."

SIU running backs coach, Rob Reeves, said that most new running backs are going to go through a period of adjustment.

"People expect them to go out and just dominate," Reeves said. "But they've got to get comfortable with our blocking schemes up front.

"They haven't been in the program long enough, and they're just now starting to get comfortable with things."

As for getting comfortable with the head coach, Jackson made that transition quite easily.

"He's taught me a lot, and I think he's a great man," Jackson said. "I respect him so much."

The Minnesota transfer considers Kill more than just a coach.

"He's the type of guy who will get on you, tell you why he's getting on you and also tell you that he loves you," Jackson said. "He's a coach, but he's a lot like a father figure out here.

"He really does care about and love all of his players."

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