Sir Thomas Jackson is planning on being extra nice to his teammates this week. In fact, he may just be a downright suck up.
The sophomore linebacker is heading back to his native Seattle this weekend with the Wildcats for their Saturday showdown with 16th-ranked Washington, and the ticket requests have gotten a little out of hand.
“I know it’s going to be over 50, for sure,” Jackson said. “Childhood friends, family, cousins, uncles, everybody; you name them, they’ve asked. I have to draw the line. I’m still trying to get more tickets. I’m asking my teammates for tickets. Hopefully they’ll come through.”
Jackson prepped at O’Dea High School in Seattle, a little more than four miles away from Husky Stadium. When he couldn’t attend the Washington home games in person, he watched them on TV.
It was his dream school. The Huskies weren’t interested.
“I’m so excited, I can’t even describe it,” Jackson said of going home. “It’s going to be bittersweet going up there and playing on that field in front my family. It’s the school I wanted to go to.
“I really wanted to play for them and stay close to home, but it didn’t get that far.”
After Washington said it wasn’t interested, Jackson accepted an invitation to walk on at Arizona. He redshirted in 2011 and then was plugged into a shallow and struggling Wildcats defense and started 12 games last season. He totaled 58 tackles — five for losses — had three pass breakups and 1½ sacks.
This year, Jackson has a new role; or in harsher terms, he’s been demoted.
The Wildcats welcomed an influx of talent at linebacker this year. Freshman Scooby Wright has taken his starting spot and DeAndre Miller, Derrick Turituri and Keoni Bush-Loo have all moved ahead of him on the depth chart.
So Jackson now serves on the UA’s third-down “SWAT” team defense as a defensive end. And during parts of the week — because coaches like his work ethic so much — he serves as a scout team linebacker.
“He’s an example of the type of attitude you should have on this football team,” coach Rich Rodriguez said. “Here’s a guy that started and now, for some of practice, he’s on the scout team and he’s one of the best guys giving effort. That’s the kind of guy you build a program with right there.”
If the new role is bothering Jackson, he’s not tipping his hand.
He had three tackles in the first two games on “SWAT” team duty and then only played two snaps against UTSA because of a sprained ankle. He was a full participant in practice last week and should be good to go for his Saturday homecoming.
“I’ve enjoyed the move,” Jackson said. “I played that D-end role in high school. So I just feel like I’m getting back to what I know.”
Even if it means not starting?
“I’m just trying to give my best to the team,” Jackson said. “I’m a team player, not an individual player. They told me this is what I’m going to be doing, so I’m doing it the best I can.
“I wasn’t disappointed at all. I didn’t think twice about it.”
Don’t feel too bad for Jackson. This season has brought him his finest moment as a football player.
After two years as a walk-on, Rodriguez awarded Jackson a scholarship during fall camp. His parents were helping pay for his college education, but Jackson was paying for a large chunk of it himself with money he saved up with a job he held during high school.
“It was the best moment in my life,” Jackson said of when he learned he was on scholarship. “I called my dad and he was trying to be strong on the phone, but I knew in his voice that he had that quiver and he was tearing up. I said, ‘are you tearing up right now?’ He said ‘no, no, I’m good’ and then he got off the phone real quick.”
And how has life changed for Jackson?
“I can eat good now instead of just eating Ramen noodles and hot dogs,” Jackson said. “I have a little extra money in my pockets.”
Maybe even enough to buy some tickets for his friends this weekend if his teammates can’t come through.