Last Fall, Johnny Jackson had to fight just to make the practice squad. He showed enough promise to make the roster, but got lost in the mix with the other walk-ons and was barely noticed.
This spring, the soon-to-be sophomore is fighting for a spot on the field. In two scrimmages, Jackson has caught nine catches, averaging about nine yards per catch. He has a new nickname, Jumpin’ Johnny Jackson and has even impressed Coach Rodriguez, who said that Jackson has worked hard to prove himself so far.
That’s not where the wide receiver is stopping though. He plans on pushing himself and his teammates at practice every single day.
“Every day we come out here and it’s a competition," Jackson said. "We don’t take anything lightly."
The coaches have stressed work ethic in practice, so the freshman understands that he has to get better in practice every day. He may be a surprise stand-out for the new offense and coaches, but he knows that he has to continue improving.
“I haven’t done as well as I hoped, but I’m adjusting to the system and learning my routes," he said. "I have to catch the ball more. I’ve been dropping a few, so that’s the biggest thing.”
One thing that is going to help him improve is the coaches. Last season, Jackson and other walk-on players felt that they were “in the back”, where this year, the coaches treat all the players like scholarship players regardless of their scholarship status.
“(Rodriguez) wants us to do well," Jackson said. "He’s always talking about us. He knows the struggle. He’s always telling me to keep my head up. These coaches are really hyping us up and want us to succeed.”
The adjustment to new coaches is nothing new to Jackson. His football team at St. Augustine High School went through a coaching change following his sophomore year. With some family support, he made it through his junior and senior seasons, racking up ten touchdowns.
His mature attitude is shown is his team first mentality. He pushes his teammates to get batter and understands that some of the upperclassmen are running out of games to play.
“Everybody’s buying into the system,” Jackson said. “Everybody’s excited. We all want to make the Rose Bowl or another BCS bowl. We want to do it for the seniors.”
He learned how to be a good teammate last season, if he didn’t know already, but this spring, the freshman has just enough swagger to get himself noticed.
“I come out here every day with a chip on my shoulder," he said. "I feel like I have something to prove.”
The way Jumpin’ Johnny Jackson is playing so far, it may not be too long before everyone knows who he is.