Eddie Jackson was on his way to his third period World Literature class last Friday when his cell phone rang.
Instead of another call to wish him luck before Boyd Anderson’s first round playoff game that night, this phone call brought Jackson to tears. His cousin had called to tell him their grandmother had passed away in her sleep that same morning.
“The shock pretty much ran through my body,” Jackson said. “All I could think about was how we were going to see her in just a few days on Thanksgiving. I just wanted to bury my head in my hands and cry.”
Jackson did. Then a few hours later, he put on a football uniform, wiped away his tears and hauled in the game-winning touchdown pass to lift the Cobras to a come-from-behind win at eighth-ranked Delray Beach Atlantic.
“It was an emotional moment,” said Jackson’s father, Eddie Sr., who was in the stands supporting his son less than 24 hours after his 65-year old mother — diagnosed with congestive heart failure recently — died in her sleep.
“The decision was basically left up to him. I told him if you want to play, play. If you can’t, your teammates will understand. I guess he felt like he needed to do it for his grandma. And he did. He made us all proud.”
Jackson, a 6-2, 176-pound senior, has been making everyone who knows him proud since he began to take his academics and athletics more seriously last year. Ruled academically ineligible to play as a sophomore, Jackson transferred to Boyd Anderson from Northeast last year and began working with tutors and teachers to raise his GPA. He finally became eligible this season and has been a star since walking on the field.
In addition to his 32 catches for 639 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns, Jackson has also starred as a defensive back and special teams standout. He has returned two interceptions, two kickoffs and a punt back for touchdowns this season. Against rival Ely, he was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring on a 73-yard punt return, an 89-yard fumble return and producing two more turnovers with a forced fumble and an interception.
“I’m going to put it to you like this — that kid is probably the player of the year in Broward County,” said coach Wayne Blair, who estimates Jackson is on the field for the Cobras about 85 percent of the time.
“I’ve been around some greatness, and he’s in line. He has a unique set of skills, very long limbs. And his work ethic is incredible. He’s dedicated himself to bringing his grades up and now he’s just a couple points short in his GPA from getting some big-time offers.”
Jackson, who raised his GPA to a 2.2 and will take the ACT for the first time in December, has offers from Tennessee, Purdue, UCF, Toledo, SMU and Hawaii. But Florida State, the team he grew up rooting for, and Oklahoma are intently watching his progress.
Jackson’s older brother, Demar Dorsey, a former safety at Boyd Anderson, was one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation in 2010. But Dorsey, who originally signed with Michigan, has been struggling the past two years to get his academics in order. Jackson Sr. said Dorsey spent this past semester at Arizona Western Community College and is still looking to sign with a school.
“I definitely think Eddie has learned something from what his brother went through and it’s motivated him,” Jackson Sr. said. “Now it’s up to him to keep going.”
The Cobras (8-2) hope to keep their playoff path going with a win at 10th-ranked Palm Beach Dwyer (9-2) on Friday. The Panthers, who host Boyd Anderson, crushed Northeast 25-3 last week and shut down star receiver Stacy Coley, holding him without a catch.
“What’s got us most excited is they’re talking about blowing us out, putting up 50 on us,” Jackson said. “All I’ve got to say is we’ll see what happens on game day.”