Glenville, WV – Things could not get much better for Glenville State College football player Mark Jackson.
The 24-year-old Jackson recently married his significant other. They have one daughter and another child due in December. He is preparing for his senior season at Glenville State, from which he is scheduled to receive a bachelor’s degree in sports management in the spring.
“Life is good,” said Jackson, a 6-foot-6, 325-pound offensive tackle from Columbus, Ohio. “I can’t complain at all.”
Jackson is one of 12 returning starters for the Pioneers, who finished fifth in the nine-team West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings with a 5-6 overall record and 5-3 conference mark.
“First of all, Mark Jackson is a great guy,” said Glenville State head coach David Hutchison, who is preparing for his second season in charge of the Pioneers’ program. “He is a very hard worker and a good team player. He leads by example. We are very lucky to have him. He is projected by the NFL to be a potential draft pick. He has worked hard all summer long, and we expect big things from him.”
A two-time All-WVIAC first-team selection (2010 and 2011), Jackson has helped the Pioneers throw for 5,120 yards and 40 touchdowns and run for 3,395 yards and 31 scores in the two seasons since he transferred from Big Ten Conference member Illinois.
“He anchors our offensive line at the left tackle spot and protects our quarterback’s blind side,” said Hutchison, who coached the Pioneers’ offensive line for three years before he became their head coach. “He is huge. I can remember the first time he walked on campus. He looked like an NFL player back then. If you watch a game and see how hard he plays and see how dominant he can be as a run blocker and pass protector, it’s awesome to watch.”
Jackson has individual and team goals he wants to accomplish in 2012.
“This is my last go-round,” he said. “We went 5-6 last year. I’m not trying to go 5-6 again this year. We have 12 seniors who have been here all summer. We want to win the conference and, hopefully, make the playoffs because this is our last shot in college football.
“Individually, I want to be all-conference again. I want to be one of the top Division II linemen in the country. I don’t want to give up any sacks.”
Jackson also wants to earn an NFL opportunity.
“I have been talking to a lot of scouts,” said Jackson, who wants to receive an invitation to the NFL Combine to showcase his skills. “They said my name has come up with a lot of teams. They tell me as long as I go out there and have another great season, it should be no question. I should be able to get drafted (or signed as a free agent).”
Jackson displayed his uncommon athleticism in 2010, when he caught a 14-yard touchdown pass on a tackle screen during the second quarter of a 42-27 victory versus West Virginia State University.
“Running that play was one of the most exciting times in my life,” said Jackson, whose score gave the Pioneers a 17-0 lead. “We had practiced it all week. I never dropped the ball in practice. I was ready for it. I wasn’t even expecting him to call it so early in the game.
“I pretty much made it obvious because I had to take off my gloves and give them to our left guard. When I caught the ball, I basically blacked out. I couldn’t believe I had the ball. The blockers set up for me. I just had to read the blocks. Toward the end of the play, the safety took out my legs, but I dove to get in the end zone. That would have sucked to get to the 1-yard-line and not score. Luckily, I got in the end zone.”
For Hutchison and Jackson, it remains one of the most memorable moments in their Glenville State careers.
“It was a special, special moment besides the 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for the celebration,” Hutchison said with a laugh. “The offensive line went crazy after he scored, but I could understand it, so I didn’t mind it.”
Hutchison said the Pioneers might run the play again this season.
“I hope so,” Jackson said. “I was talking to him about it a couple weeks ago. That would be awesome.”