Scholar Athlete: Jackson’s faith helps him overcome injuries to start for NHS
NATCHEZ — If you can’t enjoy the mountain peak without going through the valley, Greg Jackson probably loves the view right about now.
The senior right tackle for the Natchez High School football team has gone through his fair share of trials and tribulations, including two ACL tears on the same right knee and drowning out the voices of doubt.
But Jackson overcame those tests to earn a starting job for the Bulldogs this season, and he said it was his faith in God that allowed him to persevere.
“It teaches me to put my faith in God, because He’ll never fail you, knowing that He’s the only thing that will bring me through all my trials and tribulations,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he draws strength from the daily devotion he has with his parents, Greg Sr. and Katrina, each morning before school.
“I just thank (God) every day about staying healthy, and I pray every day,” Jackson said. “I think that’s what has brought me this far.”
One thing that hasn’t suffered through all the trials is Jackson’s grades. Jackson said he currently has a 3.6304 grade-point average and he’s scored a 19 on the ACT in both attempts. He’ll take the ACT again in October, and Jackson said he’s hoping to get a 23 or 24.
“Grades are very important, because I might not play football in college, but I can get an academic scholarship,” Jackson said. “If you don’t have good grades, you won’t be able to play on Fridays anyway. Keeping my grades up has never been a problem for me.”
Jackson didn’t start playing football until his freshman year at NHS, and he only played a little bit that season before tearing his ACL in his right knee. Though he was completely healthy his sophomore year, he re-tore the same ACL last fall and missed the entire season.
“It was very frustrating, because I love the game of football,” Jackson said. “I’d see all my friends playing, and not being able to play, it really put me down.”
Even though he couldn’t get the physical reps in during practice, Jackson said he spent time watching practice and games while he was injured, soaking in everything he could.
“When I was hurt, I shot film, and when I did, I could see what certain positions were doing at certain times, that kind of thing,” Jackson said. “It helped me get my mental reps.”
At 5-foot-10, 178 pounds, Jackson said he’s heard for years that he was too small to play offensive line.
“People were saying that I don’t need to play ball, that I was too small to play, especially on the line,” Jackson said. “It messed with my mind, but I didn’t pay any attention to it.”
But his coaches weren’t among the people questioning Jackson’s ability, and Jackson said head coach Lance Reed and assistant coaches Trey Woodard, Jerry Baldwin and James Coleman would always encourage Jackson during practice.
“They kept telling me, ‘You can do it,’ and ‘Just keep getting stronger, keep getting better,’” Jackson said.
His coaches’ words served as motivation, especially in contrast to the negative words of other people, Jackson said. And without those words of encouragement, Jackson said it would have been harder to stick with football
“I probably would have tried to do it, but I wouldn’t have gotten as much motivation,” Jackson said. “I probably would have been one of the mediocre players on the team.”
Getting up early for devotion and staying late after school for practice while trying to balance schoolwork can be a challenge, but Jackson said he makes sure all of his schoolwork gets done no matter what.
“I make time,” Jackson said. “However long it takes, I get it done, no matter how late I stay up.”
With his faith as his guidance, Jackson said he knows he’s overcome a lot to make it as a starter for NHS, especially when it came to his two injuries.
“I guess it was the enemy trying to keep me from playing,” Jackson said. “My dedication is what allowed me to get through it.”