Take Two

Tight end Alex Jackson was named the Temple football team's Most Improved Offensive Player last spring, which he capped with a five-catch performance in the Cherry and White Game. But those five catches were the last he made in a game situation as a back injury started him on a downward spiral. Now, Jackson is ready to pick up where he left off and carry another strong spring into the fall.

Tight end Alex Jackson was named the Temple football team's Most Improved Offensive Player last spring, which he capped with a five-catch performance in the Cherry and White Game.

But those five catches were the last he made in a game situation as a back injury started him on a downward spiral he never fully recovered from.

Now heading into his junior season, Jackson is ready to pick up where he left off last April and carry another strong spring into the fall.

"It was frustrating not being able to play, and I had to sit back and wait for my time," said Jackson. "My time came, and I wasn't focused. I put all the blame on me.

"I still had plenty of opportunities to play after my back injury, but I wasn't in my playbook and it showed on the field. I put the blame on me 100 percent."

Jackson said the back pain – which he described as a combination of cracks in his spine from birth and nerve damage – was eased with three injections, an increased stretching program and general maintenance. He felt physically ready to play a significant role in the middle of last season, but wasn't mentally prepared.

"I let the back injury get the best of me, my confidence went down the drain and I thought I wasn't going to overcome it because it was taking so long to get better," said Jackson. "I was so focused on my back that I forgot what was important, staying on the football field, paying attention and learning my plays."

Jackson still managed to play in 11 games in a backup role and on special teams, but it wasn't the significant impact projected for him before the season. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder took notice of how senior Evan Rodriguez played the position, leading the Owls with 35 catches a year ago and turning himself into an NFL prospect.

"That's my mentor, whatever he did I'm trying to better," said Jackson. "I tell him that all the time. He's a great person and great player, so if I can (surpass him) the outcome will be great for me."

Head coach Steve Addazio lauded Jackson's athletic ability and noted his overall game is far ahead of where he was a year ago.

"He's made some plays this spring, he's done a good job," said Addazio. "He's not there yet, but I like his development. He has a lot of ability. He had a good spring last year with very little installation. Now he has to do this with big installation, but he's handling it.

"Alex is a really athletic guy, he probably had the highest top end of anybody we had a year ago, he just wasn't ready to play. Now he's become a player. He's ready to go. He's ready to have a good year."

Jackson said he is taking in everything new tight ends coach Frank Leonard is teaching him, particularly the nuances of blocking.

"I have to get better blocking, it's my worst enemy," admitted Jackson. "I'm a tough person, but I have to get my technique down and be more physical. I have the talent to run routes, I'm not worried about that."

Said Leonard: "He does a nice job, he's going to be a good player. He just has to keep working at it."

Jackson expects to reap the benefits of that hard work this fall.

"I've had a great spring last year, and I plan on having another," said Jackson. "But the important thing is to make it through healthy and study my plays, so when my time comes this fall, I'm sure I'm ready to go, and I can make up for last year."

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