Oct. 16, 2012
By Matt Park, Communication Services
TUCSON- Outside linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson appears to make the most out of the opportunities that life gives him.
One year ago as a freshman, Jackson walked on and redshirted on the scout team to help prepare the offense for upcoming games. In the 2012 season, Jackson has started in all six games at outside linebacker and ranks sixth on the team in total tackles with 37.
"When you have coaches and teammates, you can always improve yourself by learning," Jackson said. "And, you can't measure the heart of a player."
During his senior year O'Dea High School in Seattle, Wash., Jackson started at defensive end, and he helped his team to a first-place finish in the league. Jackson was also a three-time all-conference selection during his time at O'Dea. But at six feet and 230 pounds, Jackson knew his best chance to play Division I football was at the linebacker position.
"I started playing linebacker here," Jackson said. "I knew I had to play linebacker because of my athleticism."
Jackson was open to the transition from defensive end to linebacker because of his willingness to learn and his practice habits. He says he could process the information and compete at a top level, all he needed was the opportunity.
"I got offers from Division II and III schools like Mitchell-Washington and Peterstown," Jackson. "But I knew I could play in the highest level because I played against top talent when I was at O'Dea."
Arizona defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Jeff Casteel has the confidence in Jackson for the same reason that Jackson believes himself.
"He's a guy that shows up every day and works hard." Casteel said. "He's tough, physical, and he comes and works every day. When a guy gives great effort, you got to find a way to him on the field. He's been a big effort guy for us."
Jackson's confidence stems from his humble upbringing. A native of Seattle, Jackson grew up underprivileged in the inner city, and as a teenager, he was in need of a positive role model to guide him in a positive direction.
"I call him teacher but he is also my mentor. His name is Osodipe Olomo," Jackson said. "He helped me grow out of my rough ties. It's always nice to have role models to talk to. A lot of young people put famous athletes as role models, but they should put people who are around them as role models, people who you want to be like when you grow up."
Olomo helped Jackson focus on the positive aspects in his life, so he could find opportunities to better his situation. Jackson turned his concentration to football, and the gridiron became a positive outlet for Jackson to overcome the difficulties he faced as an adolescent. With Olomo's influence, Jackson understands the importance of a positive model in a person's life, which is why he has set goals to help children with similar backgrounds.
"I want to major in family studies and minor in business and education," Jackson said. "I want to build a foundation for the inner city youth. I want to help the poverty-stricken youth to go to college, and I want to keep them off the streets."
Jackson remembers how some of his peers weren't lucky enough to have positive role models in their lives.
"There are a lot more talented and athletic players than me who can be in my spot," Jackson said. "But they can't because of their situations. I want to give others that opportunity."
Jackson knows how fortunate he is when he steps on the field in Arizona Stadium, but he also knows he did it through his own strengths. After he finishes playing football, Jackson hopes to help youth find their own talents and fulfill their potential much as he appears headed to do at the UA.
The story behind Jackson's noble name is that his aunt suggested a distinctive or honorable name during Jackson's birth. Teammates and friends call him "Sir T", while his mother and grandmother are among the few who call him Sir Thomas.
"I've been called Sir T since I was seven years old," Jackson has told reporters. "My grandma and mom are the only ones who call me Sir Thomas."
Jackson is expected to line up as a starter at linebacker again this week against his hometown team, the Washington Huskies.