By David Fong
Regional Sports Editor
It was a holiday season filled with surprises and blessings for Sam Jackson.
On Christmas Day, Jackson — a senior defensive lineman/linebacker on the Troy football team — received tickets to Pasadena, Calif. to see Ohio State play Washington in the Rose Bowl. Earlier in the month, Jackson was surprised to learn he had received a national honor for his play on the field for the Trojans this past fall.
“I got a surprise on Christmas when I found out I was going to the Rose Bowl,” Jackson said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles Tuesday just hours before leaving to watch the game. “That’s a pretty outstanding gift. I can’t complain about that.”
Just a few weeks earlier, Jackson was surprised to learn, via Twitter, that he had been named to USA Today’s All-USA Ohio Football team. The national publication named Jackson a first-team defensive lineman on its All-Ohio team, which honored the top players from around the state, regardless of division. Jackson found his name mentioned alongside the top players from around the state.
None of which he saw coming.
“It came as a big surprise to me,” Jackson said. “I had no idea until I saw Coach (Matt) Burgbacher had retweeted it.”
Jackson, who played strong safety for the Trojans his first three years before moving to a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid position as a senior, had a monster senior season.
According to the statistics Burgbacher kept throughout the season, Jackson finished with 168 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and, on special teams, five tackles inside the 20-yard line on kickoffs. In addition to his most recent honor, he also was named the Ohio Prep Sportswriters’ Association Division II Defensive Player of the Year, the Southwest District Division II Defensive Player of the Year and the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division Defensive Player of the Year.
As nice as all of those individual accolades were, however, they didn’t mean as much to Jackson as Troy’s success as a team. For the third year in a row, Jackson helped lead the Trojans to an outright GWOC North title and a trip to the playoffs. The Trojans finished the season 10-2, their second 10-win season in the past three years.
“It was definitely a season to remember,” Jackson said. “We had a lot of success as a team this season. We’ve had a great couple of years. To me, that’s what matters most. It’s always about putting the team first. All of these extra awards are very humbling, and I’m honored to receive them, but what I’ll remember most is what we were able to accomplish as a team.”
That comes as no surprise to Burgbacher, who describes Jackson as the ultimate team player, pointing to his willingness to switch positions as a senior as just one example of his unselfishness.
“If I had to pick one word to describe Sammy Jackson, it would be ‘winner,’” Burgbacher said. “When Sammy played varsity as a freshman, we went 2-8. He saw that firsthand and knew he didn’t want to ever be a part of that again. Not only did he put in the work to make himself a better football player, but he was a true leader on this team and made everyone else around him better.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong