FSU local player pays tribute to friends
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Most 'Nole fans already know the story of Jared Jackson's rise from anonymous walk-on, to special teams starter, to being one of the main wide receivers in his senior year.
Even his being at Florida State came about almost by accident.
Graduating from Aucilla Christian Academy in 2013, after an impressive senior year with the Warriors football team, the Monticello native nevertheless was largely overlooked by college recruiters. With no scholarship offers and very few walk-on offers (one from FAMU, the rest from out-of-state colleges), Jackson was set to go with FAMU, when a chance meeting between his high school football coach and retired FSU assistant coach Jim Gladden changed all that. As a result of that meeting, a film of Jackson's high school playing made its way first to FSU wide receiver coach and walk-on program coordinator Lawrence Dawsey, and then to head coach Jimbo Fisher.
Long story short, FSU offered Jackson an opportunity as a walk-on, and he decided to take a chance and switch from FAMU to FSU.
Even then, it was difficult. Walk-ons frequently spend much of their time on practice squads, seldom seeing playing time, seldom added to travel rosters for away games. All of this has to be earned, and earned the hard way, because when it comes to earning playing time on the field, the scholarship players get preference. For a walk-on, it's a matter of working hard, doing your job, always being ready, and when the rare chance does come along, giving it your all and hoping for the best.
A little over two years ago, Jackson got his chance. After weeks of doing extremely well in practice games and impressing the coaches, he was added to the travel roster for the game against Georgia Tech. He did so well as a starter on punt return, that he was soon assigned to kickoff coverage and other segments. At the end of that season, he was one of three FSU players recognized as Offensive Scout Team MVP at the end of the year banquet.
From a beginning with little hope of ever seeing playing time, to being one of the main wide receivers in every game this season, Jackson and the #87 garnet-and-gold jersey is now a familiar sight to FSU fans.
However, one of the most recent news stories about him is how he and teammates Alec Eberle and Ryan Rizzo honored three 'Nole fans who died in a tragic accident in Taylor County just a few days before Thanksgiving. The three young men, Brett Bassett, Matthew York and Brett King, were returning home from the Seminoles' game against Delaware when their car ran off the road; Jackson's father and Bassett's father had known each other very well, playing golf together for many years. The families were close and Jackson had known Brett Bassett a good ten years or so, and the two of them had several mutual friends. Jackson's father had given golf lessons to Bassett, and coached another one of the young men, Brett King, in middle school. Jackson did not know the third young man, Matthew York, personally, but always heard great things about him.
The small community of Perry, where the Bassett family lived and had many friends, was left shaken in the wake of the fiery crash that claimed three young lives just starting out. York left behind a widow and six-month-old child; King and his wife were building a new house together, and Bassett was a teacher, high school football coach, and middle school football/baseball coach in the Taylor County school system.
Saturday, November 18, would have been a perfect day for the three avid 'Nole fans, as FSU beat Delaware State soundly, 77-6. It was FSU's Homecoming game, and it rocked. The fans were elated, as were no doubt Bassett, King and York, as they headed home afterward, maybe excitedly discussing the game's highlights, probably also thinking of the next game against UF and anticipating another exciting win, as well as looking forward to celebrating the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays and spending time with family and friends.
Then, in a heartbeat, what was to have been a season of celebration and thanksgiving turned into one of shock and grief.
Shortly after the accident, Jackson was talking to Drew Sherrod, his former baseball coach at Aucilla (who had also been very close to the Bassett family), discussing ways to let the families know that people were keeping them in their thoughts and prayers. One thought that came out of that discussion was that the coaches would call the families and extend their condolences; not only the middle school and high school coaches, from their home towns, but also FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher reached out to the families of the three young men.
Another thought was writing the three young men's initials on wristbands and wearing them during the next game as a gesture of honor and remembrance.
And so, together with friends and teammates Alec Eberle and Ryan Izzo, Jackson did just that. Even though Eberle and Izzo never met the three young men, once Jackson told them how much the three had loved FSU football, they readily agreed to help Jackson honor their memory and make the gesture of tribute for their families.
Jackson wore B. B. for Brett Bassett; Eberle wore B. K. for Brett King; and Izzo wore M.Y. for Matthew York. They went into the game thinking about the three fans who would have been there in the stands cheering them on if they could.
FSU beat rival UF 38-22. The FSU/UF rivalry is a classic and longstanding rivalry, one that Jackson knows well, if on friendly terms, as a Seminole coming from a family of Gators.
“It was awesome,” Jackson said of the win. “I knew they (Bassett, King and York) were looking down and they were overjoyed at the win.”
It was great feeling to not not only go into the game representing them, but to win it for them as well, three enthusiastic fans who may not have been present in the stands, but, Jackson believes, were there nonetheless in spirit.