Aug. 13, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
Once upon a time, Kyle Jackson was either a star-in-waiting or at the least a very good college linebacker.
He started and called defensive signals in as a redshirt freshman in the middle in 2008, when he was named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year by the ACC Journal after playing in 12 games and starting 10.
Then, an itty-bitty ligament, the lisfranc, tore in his foot in spring practice in ’09 to not only cause him to miss that entire season, but flirt with anonymity.
Cleared to participate fully this summer and loving it while at the same time longing for his former form, Jackson was sidelined in the spring after surgery.
The redshirt junior did not love any part of that. Rehabilitation was slow and uncomfortable, and made worse by the super stiff insole he had to wear to support a foot that had to be surgically repaired. It limited him in what little work he was allowed to do.
The misery of being at practices as if an outsider and watching his teammates work was even worse.
“That was definitely the hardest part,” Jackson said. “The physical part wasn’t easy, and I look back and I’m proud of being able to push myself through that and not giving in at any point. I wanted to get back out here with my teammates as fast as I could.”
Jackson’s foot injury, the surgery and the rehab were serious enough that he was not listed on the post-spring practice depth chart among the top five inside linebackers in Tech’s new 3-4 alignment.
Thursday, though, coach Paul Johnson said that Jackson is working alongside Steven Sylvester and Julian Burnett in the backup positions behind starting ILBs Brad Jefferson, a senior who came to Tech at the same time as Jackson, and redshirt freshman Brandon Watts.
He’s working both inside spots. “I’m working at `Mike,’ and I’m responsible for learning `Jack,’ too,” Jackson said. “They’re similar in the sense that at times they can maintain the same responsibilities, but at other times in certain coverages the Jack can be the more agile guy, the more speedy guy.”
Much has changed in Jackson’s life, and he may strike as looking different the next time you see him.
“Two years ago I played at around 225. I’m at 240 right now, and trying to stay there,” said the 6-foot graduate of McDonough’s Union Grove High. “Now, I’m responsible for taking on a guard literally every play unless it’s pass. It requires me to be a little heavier. I feel like I’m close to where I was. I want to get there by the end of camp.”