Sports column: Jackson’s greatest moment came after his championship-winning TD
Published 4:00 am Sunday, November 19, 2023
On Thursday afternoon, Sharkey-Issaquena Academy’s Gary Jackson had one of the best halves of football you’ll ever see.
The senior threw a touchdown pass, and ran for 210 of his 211 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. He chased down a running back streaking toward the end zone for what turned out to be a game-saving tackle. On the last play of the game, he capped it off by breaking free for a 35-yard, walk-off touchdown that gave SIA a 32-26 victory in the MAIS Class 1A championship game.
Then Jackson did something really incredible. Something that might have overshadowed all of his athletic feats over the course of the previous hour.
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When Jackson scored, SIA’s sideline erupted in joy. Players and coaches rushed onto the field to mob their teammates and celebrate the school’s first state championship since 2014.
On the other side, Calhoun Academy’s players were despondent. Several were on their knees on the turf, wondering how they could have lost.
Jackson celebrated for a brief moment with his teammates in the end zone. They rushed off to join others who were dancing and celebrating around the 30-yard line.
Jackson did not. He walked out of the end zone and headed straight toward Calhoun’s Layton Logan, who was on his knees at the 10.
Jackson put his hand on Logan’s shoulder. He offered a word, and then his right hand to help Logan to his feet. Once Logan arose, Jackson put his left arm around him in another act of consolation and sportsmanship.
“I was telling him don’t let nobody tell him he ain’t good. Keep pushing. You’ll get it next year,” Jackson said. “They had a reason to be here and we had a reason to be here. We had to learn from them and they had to learn from us.”
For two hours Thursday, Jackson and Logan had been on opposite sides of the field trying to not only earn a championship for themselves, but by necessity take it from the other. That’s a cruel fact of sports. One person’s miraculous finish is another’s punch-in-the-gut loss.
Their exchange after the game, however, shows how easily it is to put that animosity aside for a moment of humanity and compassion.
How often do you score a walk-off touchdown to win a state championship? It was, literally, a once in a lifetime moment that pegged the needle on excitement and adrenaline for anyone who witnessed it. It’s the kind of thing every athlete dreams about.
If Jackson had run to his teammates, right past Logan, and celebrated — or Logan had done the same, were the roles reversed — no one would have thought the worse of either of them.
Instead, Jackson’s first instinct was to console his heartbroken opponent. Knowing nothing else about him, it was a simple act that speaks volumes about the young man he is.
“He’s been like that all year,” SIA coach Matt Homan said. “Good athletes respect other good athletes. That’s sportsmanship and gamesmanship amongst the players, and that’s a good thing.”
It’s the best thing. The exchange between Jackson and Logan was a quiet moment that most people in the stadium probably overlooked amidst the chaos, but it’s one we should all celebrate — and try to emulate — right now.
Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at email@example.com