Randy Jackson: Prepared To Realize Potential

With all the hoopla surrounding this year's class of Georgia Military Academy transfers, a former GMA standout has at times been forgotten. Yet, when he arrived two summers ago his star was shining brightly - and his snub of Clemson was legendary. Then what happened? ...

No junior college transfer in recent memory arrived with more fanfare and expectations among the fans than Randy Jackson. The All-State and Shrine Bowl participant had signed with Clemson, out of Lancaster High, before enrolling at GMA and excelling as a defensive end. And then the unthinkable happened ... at least in the eyes of Clemson fans.

When it came time to resign with Clemson, Jackson instead decided he wanted to play in the SEC. And amidst a myriad of offers, Jackson chose to come home and play for Lou Holtz and USC.

"Charlie Strong recruited me so I was really familiar with him. I was comfortable with Coach Strong. And Clemson was losing their defensive line coach at the same time ... the one that had been recruiting me among others," Jackson began.

So one year into his enrollment at South Carolina and it seemed that his reason for signing here was gone?

"Not at all," answered Jackson quickly. "That's probably something Clemson fans tried to make a big deal out of more than me or anyone close to me."

"When I signed with South Carolina I signed with South Carolina, not Coach Strong. I am very happy here. Sure, there have been bumps in the road at times but that's nothing. I think that has more to do with who I am than anything. A lot of this has been stirred up by Clemson people who are still upset with me for not resigning with them."

How so? As in the rumors that you were unhappy once Strong departed ... things like that?

"Exactly," replied Randy. "Let me say this right now before we go any further. I have absolutely no regrets about coming here. I love it at South Carolina. It's been a pleasure coming to school here and playing football here. I am very happy about the decision I made in that regard and I have never looked back once regardless of what fans from the other school might be out there saying."

"Listen, I've heard it all," Jackson continued. "I've heard about tires this and unhappy with Strong leaving that. None of it is true. It's just rumors started by people who needed a reason for me to not have resigned with them. They just wanted to cause problems and make something out of something that wasn't there and never has been. To tell you the truth it was a big distraction for me last year and I am ready to put it behind me. I never really understood how some people can be, it caught me by surprise, but now I am ready to put it behind me."

So put it behind him we did with the question; Are you happy at defensive tackle? The word has been that you would have preferred to stay at defensive end.

"No, I'm very happy at defensive tackle. I'll do whatever it takes to help this team. Right now I'm right behind Preston Thorne at nose tackle. With Shropshire and others like Saint Preux to our right we are going to be very good inside this year. I'm real excited about being a part of this. But to answer your question I feel real comfortable at nose tackle this year. I am over the shock of being moved down."

Plus you had to overcome ankle problems correct?

"That really frustrated me last year. I was hurt the second half of the season and when you are forced to sit for the first time in your life, combined with the constant pain, it can really affect your mental attitude at times."

How is your ankle now?

"I'm not back to 100% but I am close. I still have some pain but ankles are like that. I'll be okay and I am getting closer and closer to 100% every day."

Randy, there's been a lot said about one thing in particular that this team seems to have going for it this year and that is ...

"We're real close," Jackson interrupted. "Closer this year than any team I can ever remember playing football on. We have really bonded a lot more as a team over the summer than any of us probably expected. That's what makes me feel a certain way about this team."

How do you mean? 'Feel a certain way' about what?

"When I came here, when I chose to change my college choice, it was because deep down inside I felt something special might be happening here. So I came here out of my own free will, no one forced me to do anything. I came here for that reason ... because I felt like we might win championships here."

Do you still?

"Yes, I think ... no, make that I KNOW so. And we can do it with this team. The way we have overcome things and the way we have come together in the process lets me know that we can accomplish anything we put our minds to as a team this year. That's why I am glad I'm here and not somewhere else. I'm really glad, and I have no regrets at all."

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