Chris Jackson still views Dawgs with disdain

CHRIS JACKSON has always been good at multi-tasking. That’s as good an explanation as any for his ability to make Washington State football coach Mike Price want to strangle him one minute and hug him the next during Apple Cup week in 1997.

Jackson made headlines twice that week. First, he went against Price’s specific orders to the team and publicly blasted the Washington Huskies at the start of the week. Then he played a starring role in defeating the Dawgs to send the Cougars to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1931.

The newspaper quotes of Jackson that riled up Price included these doozies:

“I don’t have an ounce of respect for them.”

And: “I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the Huskies get in my way of going to the Rose Bowl.”

And: “I don’t respect them as players or people.”

And: “We’re looking forward to studying them pretty well and going out to put 40, 50 points on them.”

Two decades later, Jackson still talks a good game. Jackson is this week’s guest for 11-on-1, a Cougfan exclusive, when 11 questions are posed to one individual with ties to WSU football.

1. Cougfan: For lack of a gentler way to phrase this, Chris: What the hell were you thinking when you made those comments?

Jackson: I was just really stating what the goal was. The offense was rolling that last half of the season after the ASU loss (a 44-31 setback at Arizona State in early November). We were putting up 30, 40 points. So in my opinion, we had a good enough defense with a great D-line, if we handled our duties on offense, I didn’t care who we played.

2. Your comments went over just splendidly with Price, right?

Jackson: I got the phone call at 7 in the morning: “Go get a paper and be in my office in 30 minutes.”

3. Cougfan: Did the two of you have a nice, friendly chat?

Jackson: It was one of those “disappointed father” conversations. Man, he slammed his fist on his desk, talking about bulletin-board material and this was the last thing they wanted to do and how could I could do that after he forewarned the whole team. Oh, he was pissed! There was no explaining that, there was nothing but an apology (from Jackson) after that.

4. Cougfan: What did teammates think of your comments?

Jackson: We had great senior leadership. I don’t think they were bothered at all, that it was any added pressure on them. They liked it. They were like, “Let’s go out and do this.”

5. Cougfan: What do you remember about the game itself?

Jackson: A Rose Bowl berth was pending on the outcome of that particular game, so there was a different vibe there. We knew that. We had the confidence.

That was just one of those games. We went out there and fought offensively, defensively. My brother (Ray) getting a pick in the game. Everyone did their part. I ended up getting my hands on the ball a couple times and making some pretty great plays. We all played well.

We deserved to play in the Rose Bowl. It was so exciting to do it on their home field. To clinch a berth in the Rose Bowl, which we hadn’t (played in) for 67 years. Just to see Coug Nation at its highest point. It was exhilarating, it was exciting, it was playing for a community, you’re playing for a university, you’re playing for yourself. It was just an outstanding time.

6. Cougfan: Did the Huskies lay much trash talk on you during the game?

Jackson: Not too much. Early in the game, there was a little bit of chatter, but I think after those couple touchdowns (he scored) and that one play along that left-hand side …

7. Cougfan: The TD catch (pictured above and with video below) when you ran over Tony Parrish, Washington’s star safety?

Jackson: For him to be on his back as I’m traipsing away on that touchdown, it was an exhilarating moment. That was one time I heard the crowd. Usually I don’t hear them. You heard that excitement in that stadium. You didn’t hear much chatter (from UW players) after that.

8. Cougfan: What did that Apple Cup victory mean for the WSU football program?

Jackson: That was the ultimate team game. A great time to think about what that meant for all of Coug Nation and that football program. Where it’s been in the past, from the Rypiens to “the Throwin’ Samoan” (Jack Thompson), all the greats, Rueben Mayes, everybody. All of a sudden we ended that 67-year drought and we felt all of Coug Nation being proud of it, because they were part of it just like we were a part of the growth of it to where it is today.

9. Cougfan: How do you look back on that 1997 season as a whole?

Jackson: You talk about a team that came out of nowhere. Started off the season beating UCLA and USC and then kind of running through the Pac and really putting up points and building as an offense and defense.

It was a magical year. There were a lot of seniors on that team. There were a lot of Prop (48) kids going through the frustration of getting their grades right.

All of a sudden, it (success) just happened. We were all seniors at the right time. We had a junior class with a quarterback in Ryan Leaf. The maturity of the (Kevin) McKenzies, the Ray Jacksons, myself and the (Shawn) McWashingtons, Brandon Moore. We had so many seniors that just peaked at the right time.

10. Cougfan: You’re working as a personal trainer the in the Phoenix area; you’re the position coach for one of your sons (wide receiver Deyton) on a Liberty High School team playing for a state title Saturday afternoon; and you came out of retirement as a player during the Arena Football League playoffs a few months ago and caught two touchdown passes in the title game for the champion Arizona Rattlers. You were recognized as one of the all-time greats in the AFL during its glory days, but what prompted to you – at 39 – to play football for the first time in three years?

Jackson: Prior to football seasons, I always work out with my son, who is a junior this year. I’ve always prepared receivers and quarterbacks, so I’m always working out, conditioning with them, for no other reason than just to stay in shape and keep working and pushing these kids. When the phone call came (from the Rattlers), it was like, if I can make it through a couple days of practice and get my body built, there’s no doubt that mentally I can do it.

11. Cougfan: You met your wife when the two of you were attending Washington State, and the first two of your three boys were born in Pullman. Obviously, your Cougar ties are strong. How do you feel about the Huskies these days?

Jackson: Every now and again, I will see that gold “W” on a car in front of me. It’s amazing what rivalries do, because there’s a part of me that just wants to bump that car. It’s just got to be a fender-bender. I think about that every time I see that “W.”

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