Joscil Jackson can now look back with the knowledge, nobody would have blamed him had he not played during the 2011 football season.
Jackson suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder early in the 2011 season. Eventually, after a torn thumb suffered during wrestling practice made the torn labrum even worse, Jackson would undergo shoulder surgery in late January.
“Most people tell me that [they were amazed he played with the injury],” said Jackson, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior middle linebacker/fullback for Long Branch. “But, it really didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to play so bad, I ignored it (the pain).”
The pain did affect the way Jackson played even though he put together a solid season for a Green Wave team that won its final five games after an 0-5 start. Jackson ran for 671 yards and eight touchdowns and had three games of 100 yards or more in the final four games of the season. He was also a key player on a defense that allowed just 50 points over the final five games.
However, the pain was hard to ignore, even for someone with the apparent high pain tolerance that Jackson has.
“My style of tackling was different last year than it is this year,” Jackson said. “Last year, I was kind of ankle biter so I wouldn’t have to come up top and take the inital contact with my shoulder because it would hurt.
“Running (the ball), too I was more of a dodger, rather than lower my shoulder because it was a lot of pain.”
Now, with a healthy shoulder and thumb, too, Jackson is not avoiding any contact. He is dishing out punishment at a high rate. Last Saturday, in the Green Wave’s season-opening 18-13 win at Manasquan, Jackson ran for 174 yards and a touchdown and had an outstanding game on defense that included a key stop on a fourth-and-1 midway in the fourth quarter that enabled Long Branch to maintain the lead.
Jackson, even though he admitted he was tired, ran for 123 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 64-yard touchdown run that gave Long Branch an 18-7 lead with 4:32 remaining.
However, his highlight film run came on a first-and-10 from the Long Branch 3 with 2:14 remaining. It looked like Jackson, running a stretch play to the right, was going to be stacked up for no gain. However, he kept the legs moving, kept pushing the pile and eventually came out of the pile for a 39-yard gain that enabled the Green Wave to kill most of the remaining time.
Even Jackson was amazed when he watched that run on tape.
“I was like, ‘How did I do it?” Jackson said. “I got swallowed and I was completely covered, and all of the suddent, I popped out. My teammates were pushing me, too. That’s what I love about my teammates. We all come together.”
And now everything is coming together for Jackson. He is healthy. He is playing at a high level. He will be able to wrestle this winter. He also has perhaps college football in his future.
“It makes me very happy that I can finally play healthy and that I can play like a linebacker is supposed to and like a fullback is supposed to and that I don’t have to go any certain way because of the pain,” Jackson said. “I think last year I could have a much better year if my shoulder wasn’t messed up because contact is one of my favorite things.”