"It's taxing on my mind, most definitely," said Jackson. "This is probably one of the hardest things I'll ever go through in my life."
Jackson – a 6-1, 199-pound tailback from Kenosha Bradford – was slowly preparing his surgically repaied knee to compete with incoming freshman Corey Clement for Wisconsin's third running back position. When he was cleared by Wisconsin's medical staff at the end of June, he had been waiting nine months to be able to practice and put his last ACL tear behind him.
On June 10, Jackson was on the field for the players' first voluntary workout of the summer. His 2013 season lasted one cut in 7-on-7 drills.
"My knee just buckled," said Jackson. "Back to square one."
Tearing his right ACL for the second time, Jackson knew he would miss the 2013 season, just like he missed the 2012 season after tearing his ACL in the practice before the season opener and all but one half of one game during his senior season at Bradford after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee.
That first injury ruined Jackson's opportunity to be the solo attraction at Bradford, as he rushed 68 times for 956 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior splitting carries with current UW sophomore Melvin Gordon.
Now after at least four doctors examined him and couldn't figure why he continues to have knee trouble, Jackson is repaired again and has re-started his rehabilitation as his teammates prepare for their season opener next Saturday.
"As far as we are in technology now and in medicine, they still don't have the answer for me or what I am looking for," said Jackson. "I am just going to keep doing what the trainers tell me and hopefully be back out there."
After the first two injuries, Jackson said he knew he wanted to play "for sure." After his third one, Jackson met with head coach Gary Andersen, his parents and doctors to find out whether or not he still wanted to pursue football.
Jackson was leaning toward returning, but a conversation with Curt Phillips – a survivor of three ACL and multiple other knee surgeries – put Jackson at ease that he could come back and still make an impact.
"I just want to keep doing what feels natural for me," said Jackson. "Playing football is what I've been doing my whole life, so I am going to keep playing when I can."
Jackson plans to go even slower with his recovery, including being severely limited for his third straight spring. As far as a goal, Jackson said first and foremost is to stay healthy, but is second is to compete for the backup tailback spot in 2014.
"If I can get through this, I can get through anything," said Jackson. "I just have to keep listening to the trainers and fighting."