Arizona Wildcats football


He was almost an Arthur.

An aunt intervened shortly before the boy was born, however, suggesting a noble name that would carry some cachet. The parents bought in.

And so the Arizona Wildcats' most recognizable name, Sir Thomas Jackson, came to be. It's almost a shame that everybody calls him, simply, Sir T.

"Because to call me Sir Thomas," he said, "it's too long.

"I've been called Sir T since I was 7 years old, by my Little League coach. My grandma and my mom are the only ones who call me Sir Thomas."

By any name, Jackson has been a revelation so far. Jackson played every defensive snap at "Sam" linebacker, registering seven tackles, in the UA's 24-17 overtime win over Toledo a week ago. Add in his appearances on special teams, and Jackson - a redshirt freshman from Seattle - took part in more than 100 plays.

"He got indoctrinated, I guess, in a hurry," first-year coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He played a whole season's worth (of snaps) in one game."

Jackson figures to play - but probably not as much - when the Wildcats host 18th-ranked Oklahoma State on Saturday. That the 6-foot, 215-pound linebacker is on the field at all is a testament to his work ethic and Rodriguez's respect for walk-ons - and, perhaps, an indictment of Arizona's depth at nearly every defensive position.

Jackson and fellow linebacker Jake Fischer both played every snap a a week ago, and Marquis Flowers - a safety who moved to linebacker last month - saw nearly as much time.

Things should change this week if, as expected, linebacker Hank Hobson is cleared to play; the UA listed him as "probable" with a shoulder injury.

Regardless, Jackson appears to be a part of the Wildcats' short-term plans. He prepped at Seattle's famed O'Dea High School, where he was a three-time all-conference selection at defensive end. Washington and Washington State showed interest, and Air Force offered a scholarship.

But Jackson had forged a friendship with former UA recruiting coordinator Dave Emerick and liked what he heard from ex-defensive coordinator Tim Kish. Both encouraged Jackson to join the Wildcats as a recruited walk-on; he enrolled at the UA last fall and was switched to linebacker.

The first year went by in a blur. UA coach Mike Stoops - and, eventually, Kish - were fired and replaced by Rodriguez and new defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. Akron transfer Brian Wagner, the nation's top returning transfer and a projected starter at linebacker, left the team over the summer; fellow linebacker David Lopez followed shortly thereafter.

Jackson entered training camp last month with a real chance to play - and possibly start - at one of the three linebacker spots. Since then, the Wildcats' uniquely named player has been taking snaps at the "Sam" (strong), "Mike" (middle) and "Will" (weak) spots.

"I like to play football, so I can play all three," he said. "You can put me anywhere, and I'll play. You can put me at snapper, and I'll play."

For now, Jackson's job is to stop the run and chase the quarterback. He "played great" in the opener, Flowers said.

"He stepped into his role, and that's what we need him to do," Flowers said.

On and off the field, Sir Thomas is recognizable.

It starts with the name: Jackson has two younger brothers, 16-year-old Raphael and 9-year-old Kofi. Their father, Thomas, was the inspiration for the oldest Jackson boy's name.

In the classroom, Jackson's first name has a way of ingratiating himself to his teachers and professors. The first day of school has always been one of his favorites.

"They say, 'Sir Thomas?'" Jackson said. "'I hope you live up to your name.'"

Up next

• Who: Oklahoma State at Arizona

• Where: Arizona Stadium

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: Pac-12 Arizona

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp)

The Rodriguez report

UA coach Rich Rodriguez's injury report and team captains for this week's game:

Injury report

• Out: LB Greg Nwoko (hip), TE Drew Robinson (pneumonia)

• Doubtful: None

• Questionable: LB Dakota Conwell (foot), OL Cayman Bundage (knee)

• Probable: LB Hank Hobson (shoulder), DE Dan Pettinato (knee)

Team captains

• Week 2: WR Terrence Miller, OG Trace Biskin, DE Chris Merrill and RB/DE Taimi Tutogi