Buddy Jackson Fits The Mold

Buddy Jackson might not be the biggest or strongest Pitt football player, but after watching him play cornerback for just a brief time it's clear that the redshirt freshman from Cypress Bay High School is a natural at the position.

And he certainly isn't too slightly built to handle the rigors of a long season. Buddy Jackson is about 6-feet tall and "pushing 180 pounds now,'' which is some 20 pounds more than he weighed when he left Plantation, Fla. last summer for the Pittsburgh campus. Then, there's his speed. Jackson is consistently timed in less than 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"I never doubted my ability, my speed and ball skills,'' Jackson said. "So, I feel that if I can just be consistent, I'll be all right. So far in the spring, I've been able to get all my coverages down, make a few plays and come up and hit some people. So, if I just stay focused and consistent, the opportunity's there for me. So, it's all on me right now.''

But it wasn't always that easy for Jackson, especially during those first few weeks last summer. Jackson was a long way from home and despite his skill level, his confidence wavered a bit.

"In the beginning, it was a little tough for me, but I just had to get the process down,'' Jackson said. "That's being on time for meetings, getting my lifts done and everything, and it was a little tough at first. But I was working hard.

"I just wanted to do everything right. I also got a little homesick, and that didn't help. That messed with my head mentally, and I know I'm supposed to be mentally strong. But it wasn't easy. The longer I was here, the better it got.''

While Jackson had a tough first season on the scout team, he got some valuable lessons during practice and in the meeting rooms. And when Pitt's season culminated with a big win at West Virginia, Jackson knew all his hard work paid off even though he didn't actually take part in that landmark Panthers victory.

"I guess things really clicked for me at the end,'' Jackson said. "That West Virginia win was huge. During the season, I was working hard on the scout team and doing what I had to do, but the West Virginia game ... it clicked in for me then that hard work really does pay off with success.

"I realized that the scout team is important to get the starters ready for the games, but it's also good for young guys like me who want to be a starter in the future. And I definitely want to be a starter here eventually. So, if I keep working hard, my opportunity will come. I'm sure of that.''

Jackson basically is the fourth cornerback right now, playing behind junior Jovani Chappel at Pitt's boundary position. The starting field corner is junior Aaron Berry with redshirt sophomore Ricky Gary as his backup. Jason says that he can learn from his watching those guys play the position.

"They all have pretty good footwork, so I try to watch and pick things up from that,'' Jackson said. "I look at that and try to mirror them, and then I put my athletic ability into the mix. So, that's what I try to do. I go out there and try to be mentally tough at all times and use my athletic ability to carry me.''

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt believed that Jackson has the ability to be a starting cornerback at this level one day, and his continued improvement gives the Panthers depth in the secondary that they haven't had in years at corner.

Jeff Hafley, the Pitt secondary coach who was promoted from graduate assistant after last season, also has high hopes for Jackson.

"We have a lot of talented young guys in our secondary, and Buddy's one of them,'' Hafley said. "We think very highly of those guys, and we want to push them as hard as possible. But I'm very pleased with Buddy's work ethic so far.''

And Jackson is thrilled that Hafley took over when Chris Ball left the program.

"Me and Coach Hafley, we have a very good relationship,'' Jackson said. "Ever since I got here, he was always the coach that helped me the most, encouraged me as I went on, especially when I was homesick, and he showed me the ropes. So, I was very happy when he got the DB job. He's a great coach.''

Anthony Hugh "Buddy'' Jackson II is the fourth Pitt player to come from Plantation, Fla. in recent years. He joins former linebacker H.B. Blades and tight end Darrell Strong, as well as current wideout Cedric McGee.

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