Jackson Hits The Field for Real

With all due respect to the Grateful Dead, it has been a long and strange trip for Mountaineer wide receiver Eddie Jackson.

With the start of spring drills Tuesday afternoon, Jackson is getting closer to his first, and only, season wearing the Blue and Gold. Come autumn, Jackson will line up in the same offense as Chris Henry, Kay-Jay Harris, and Rasheed Marshall to hopefully give the Mountaineers one of the nation's most explosive offenses.

Coming out of high school in the Columbus, Ohio area, Jackson accepted an offer to play for John Cooper at Ohio State. The Buckeyes then asked him to play at Fork Union Military Academy for a year. After his year at FUMA, Ohio State fired Cooper, and Jackson was back to square one.

Next, he headed to the Midwest to play at Coffeyville (KS) Community College. He was successful at Coffeyville, earning all-Jayhawk Conference honors. He caught the eye of several schools, including West Virginia, but ended up being swayed by former Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel. Jackson thus headed to the great northwest for his junior season to play for the Huskies. In his lone season with the Huskies, Jackson caught 16 passes for 152 yards. Something just didn't seem right, though.

"I wanted to play more," said Jackson following Tuesday's workout at Milan Puskar Stadium. "I started looking around and I was trying to get closer to home."

Having been recruited by Mountaineer coach Rich Rodriguez coming out of junior college, and decided to come and play for WVU. Influencing his decision was Rodriguez's offense, and the fact that Morgantown is only about three and a half hours from Columbus. During the spring game last April, Jackson caught 42-yard touchdown strike from Charles Hales, showing off his breakaway speed by running past the entire secondary after taking a short pass from the X receiver position. Despite not having played an official game yet for the Mountaineers, he has earned the respect and praise of his teammates, and his coaches.

"That's Terrell Owens right there," says Harris pointing to Jackson. (The pair played against each other in junior college.)

"Eddie's a big, physical receiver, and he already knows the offense because he's been with us for a year. We had a lot of success last year with Chris Henry, and now that we'll have Eddie Jackson on the other side, I think we're in pretty good shape," Rodriguez says. The coach also notes that Jackson will help the Mountaineers' power running game, using his size for blocking and creating running room downfield for Harris and the other West Virginia running backs.

"I already know the offense, now all I've got to do is get all of those hand signals down," jokes the 6-3, 225-pound playmaker, referring to the motions that Mountaineer receivers coach Steve Bird signals in from the sidelines in lieu of a huddle during games.

Jackson, who is an athletic coaching major, is looking to make the most of his time in the University City.

"I'm just out there having fun. I'm going to play my best, and try to help the team win a national championship.

"I only have one year of eligibility, but you know what they say: ‘save the best for last'."

If Jackson does just that, the Mountaineer offense will have the potential to be the best, and certainly the most balance, it has been in Rodriguez's tenure at his alma mater. And maybe, just maybe, the dreams of Mountaineer fans for years will finally become a reality.

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