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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Sir Thomas Jackson’s Quest

Colin+Prenger%2FArizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0ASir+Thomas+Jackson%2C+No.+53%2C+goes+for+a+tackle+against+Toledo+in+an+overtime+win+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+1%2C+2012.
Colin Prenger/Arizona Daily Wildcat Sir Thomas Jackson, No. 53, goes for a tackle against Toledo in an overtime win on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012.

His name may be different, and his journey difficult, but redshirt freshman Sir Thomas Jackson has been officially knighted as a starter.

It didn’t happen overnight for the Arizona walk-on, but after impressing the coaches during spring and fall camp, and with some help from injuries, Jackson battled his way into a significant role — and it started last Saturday against Toledo.

“I just went out there trying to slice some heads up,” Jackson said about his first career game. “That’s what I think I really try to do. Sometimes I do mess up, but I try to go 100 mph.”

Jackson, who’s called ‘Sir T’ by everyone but his mother and grandmother, started as weakside linebacker in place of the injured sophomore Hank Hobson. He was named Thomas after his father, but his Aunt suggested a cool twist on the name, and so became Sir Thomas.

Against Toledo, Jackson finished with seven total tackles, but what made Rodriguez proud was Jackson’s willingness to adjust to the circumstances — he was on the field for every one of 94 plays on defense, in addition to his duties on special teams.

“He got (indoctrinated) in a hurry,” Rodriguez said. “He played whole seasons’ worth in one game.”

Hobson is listed as probable this week, but Jackson’s rise was made official as the coaches put him first on the depth chart, even with the challenge of No. 18 Oklahoma State coming to town.

“I knew we had a good kid that worked hard,” Rodriguez said about first seeing Jackson in spring camp. “He’s a tough guy and he’s very coachable.”

“As far as walk-ons go and all that, he epitomizes what you hope to see — a guy that comes out and tries to prove himself every day. I’m really proud of him.”

Rodriguez was a walk-on himself at West Virginia in 1981 and has shown an affinity for players who try and follow his footsteps, such as Jackson or safety Jared Tevis, another walk-on who was given a scholarship by Rodriguez in May.

He might not have been a top recruit, and he’s OK with that. All Jackson wants is to get on the field.

“I just like to play football… You could put me anywhere, I just play,” Jackson said. “Shoot, you could put me at (long) snapper, I’ll play it.”

But Jackson hasn’t been surprised by all the time on the field he’s received.

Jackson said he’s always thought of himself as a starter and scholarship player and that his confidence has gotten him to where he is now.

Even when Jackson found out the Sunday before Toledo that he was going to start in his first ever game, Jackson didn’t feel the need to immediately inform friends or family.

“I told everyone back home the day before the game, so everybody was shocked,” Jackson said. “Everybody was shocked, even my parents really.”

“Except for my dad,” he added. “He’s a hard-edge dude.”

Jackson was an unranked defensive end coming out of O’Dea High School in Seattle, Wash., but Washington and Washington State both expressed interest in him — as a walk-on. Air Force offered Jackson his only scholarship.

Instead, Jackson decided to be a walk-on recruit at Arizona after talking with then-defensive coordinator Tim Kish and recruiting coordinator David Emerick.

Coincidentally, Emerick left for Washington State this season, but Jackson has found a home in Tucson and the Wildcats have given him a chance to make an impact.

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