During the Vandals’ bye week, I sat down with senior running back Deonte Jackson, who’s career has gone from freshman stud to injured backup to, now, a key part of Idaho’s running game.
You can read my lengthy profile of Jackson here and also check out below for more that didn’t make it into the story.
The story was long as it was, but there was plenty of other interesting quotes and tidbits that didn’t make it in.
On taking a backseat last year: “Sharing the load, definitely last year, was a blessing in disguise. It was something at first that was hard to deal with. Just being the competitor I am, it was hard to actually have to sit there and share rotations when you want to be in, you want to be making that play. But it was a blessing in disguise. It gave my body time to heal correctly instead of rushing it and trying to find quick fixes for it. It’s definitely what made the difference for me. It also helped me grow a ton in maturity. I learned to actually be a team player. I’ve always played for my team, but I think last year actually made me become a team player. I learned to find a role, accept it, and take pride in having that role. So it was a great experience.”
His low point during the injuries: “The lowest point for me, it wasn’t sitting out last year. Now that I look back at it, I would say it was the second year of playing when I actually was playing through tremendous pain with my back. And it was also a low for me to be out there and wanting to make moves and do things and not being able to. One thing an injury could never hurt was my vision, so I would see a hole or see a cut and I could visualize what I want to do but basically not being able to do was probably the lowest point and the part that hurt me the most throughout my career.”
On his back: “(Spasms) used to be one of my main problems. I used to get spasms to the point where it would hurt me to stand for more than five minutes or sit down for more than five minutes. I had to rotate, lay down a lot. I don’t have any of the hard, excruciating pain that I used to have, that I dealt with for two years straight.”
On his relationship with his uncle Steven: “I leaned on him a lot throughout my whole college career, throughout my entire life. He’s always been more so of a big brother more than an uncle because we’re not that far in age and we grew up in the same house for a lot of years. So I’ve always seen him as my bigger brother instead of my uncle. And so whenever I need advice or I just needed somebody to listen, he would always be there to give me advice for school, sports and even my personal life.
“In the summer when we’re training partners, he tells me all the time I push him. I take big pride in that.”
On his emotions after Dennis Erickson left UI: “At first I was confused and a little upset about it. But he actually sat me down and explained to me one-on-one, face-to-face on his decision and after he did that, I couldn’t be upset with him. I agreed with everything he sad and seen it the way he saw it. Every man’s got to worry about himself and his family, and I think that’s the best decision he could have made.”
On talking to Akey after he was hired: “What I remember was a little weird. They really didn’t know much about me. They told me they’d be glad to have me but I would have to earn my spot on the team. That was a challenge that I kind of looked at if first like, ‘What do you mean? Do you not know who I am and stuff like that?’ But then I took a second, stepped away from my ego and was like, this is a callout. This is a challenge, and I think I did a great job stepping up to it. I earned that starting spot pretty fast that spring ball after, and it just turned out to be a great thing.”
On Deonte’s evolution: “If there was ever any question about something needing to get done and needed to get done the right way, his tail was in there. He’s a guy, he made sure the protection was right. He was going to do a good job.”
On pass protection: “I kind of laughed the other day. I read something the other day that everybody’s talking about that part of our problem protecting the quarterback is because De’Maundray’s gone. If they only knew. We’re pulling him out and putting Deonte in to make sure the quarterback is protected. He does a great job of that.”
On Deonte’s offseason: “He was able to get through the carries and get through the season and get to the offseason last year. And frankly he made the decision to be great in the offseason. He went out and had one of the best summers of his life. He came back in immaculate shape for the season. The first couple of practices we were very excited about what he was doing. And he’s got his explosiveness back. He’s able to plant on that ankle better than he was before. He made it through two-a-days without having to take any time off with his back.
On Deonte’s turnaround: “He’s a really great kid. He’s been through a lot. The ups and downs of college football. He’s been on a huge up and he went down and had to fight his way back up to become the player that he was before. And some of that was injury, some of that was situational. And he’s been to able to grow and become a better player and person because of it.”