Image: Mercer Athletics
Zach Jackson: Horned Frog turned Mercer Bear
September 26, 2015
Zach Jackson read the quarterback’s eyes; he sprinted across the field towards the sideline as he launched himself into the air and pulled down the acrobatic interception. He had finally arrived on the college football stage.
Jackson was a three star recruit coming out of Brookwood high school. He had just capped his high school playing days with a state title and was getting ready to take his talent to the next level.
Jackson committed to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. The Horned Frogs were among a large group of suitors at the FBS level of college football (Georgia Tech, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt) vying for Jackson’s presence in their secondary. Mercer did not have a football program at the time of his recruitment, so the Bears were not on his radar yet.
Jackson was redshirted his first season in Fort Worth—meaning he would preserve a year of eligibility and sit out his freshman season.
In his second season, Jackson saw the field only a couple of times as the backup safety.
Jackson began looking at transferring to another school. He narrowed it down to a couple FCS programs closer to his home in Snellville, Georgia. Furman and Chattanooga seemed like good options for Jackson to get the playing time he desired.
Mercer gave him a chance to do something more.
“I wanted to transfer to get closer to home. My position coach, coach Doolittle nailed it into my head that I could be the start of a new program and help build it up” Jackson said. “. . . I saw this as a second chance coming from TCU because I do not think I got the opportunity that I deserved.”
Jackson had barely seen the football field in the two years before coming to Mercer and had not played meaningful snaps since his high school days. This motivated Jackson to get better and make an impact after settling into the Mercer secondary.
“Last year was my chance to get my feet wet. I made some mistakes and made some plays, but I feel like last year was a learning year for me,” Jackson said. “It gave me the chance to see where I was at and what I needed to work on.”
Jackson’s moment came against Virginia Military Institute in his first year at Mercer. As he helped Mercer secure the win with the interception, Jackson had taken advantage of his second chance.
“It felt great just knowing that I was able to seal the game and give Mercer its first SoCon win,” Jackson said.
While he is a playmaker on the field, delivering punishing hits and making the quarterback always account for him, Jackson is a quiet and laid back guy off the field.
“I am probably one of the most chill guys on the team. You can ask anybody on the team and they will tell you. I really do not go out. I am just not a party guy.” Jackson said.
Instead of the party scene, Jackson would rather be in his room watching Netflix or his favorite football team, the San Diego Chargers.
“If I could pick one team to play for, it would be the Chargers. I have been a fan since Ladainian Tomlinson was there. I just grew up watching them,” Jackson said. “No matter if they have a good or bad season, I love the Chargers.”
Jackson had more trouble picking his favorite movies as he said, “there are just so many man. I can’t really pick just one.”
Jackson’s main goal is to take his talent to the next level and play in the NFL. It has been his dream since he committed to playing only football his junior year of high school. Before then, he played baseball and ran track in addition to football.
If Jackson does not reach the NFL, he will still try to find a place in the sports world.
“I want to be a sports analyst for any sports team. I am working with ESPN now, and they have been such a great learning tool for me. I appreciate everything that those guys have done,” Jackson said. “I would really like to just work in broadcasting for some sports team.”
When people hear his name, he wants people to remember him in a positive way.
“I want them to think of me as a selfless person as I try and put others before myself. I want them to know I am giving 110 percent, whether it be in football or anything, that I am giving it my all,” Jackson said.
The quiet and reserved guy off of the field shows up on game day and lights up opponents. His demeanor and soft spokenness come with a chip on his shoulder.
“Transferring from TCU gave me a motivation to prove a lot of people that doubted me wrong,” Jackson said.