Rollins applied herself on the track and in the classroom. She is one semester from graduating.
“When she came out of the block so slowly, she had two choices: fight or quit,” Jackson said of the world title race. “I knew she’d fight. She has learned how to come out of trouble. Things have never come easy for her, but from Day One, I told her, ‘Don’t invite me to your pity party.’ ”
Jackson gives that speech to many of her Northwestern athletes.
“Most of the kids I deal with have a lot of adversity in their lives, and we don’t sugarcoat things around here,” the coach said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t use as a crutch that you have no bread or milk in the fridge, or that you have a lot of dropouts in your family, or that your Mom has no money. That’s no excuse. Life’s about choices. Choose to be different. You’ve got me as a mentor. Tell me what you need, and we’ll get you there.’ Some buy in, some don’t.”
The question now is, how fast can Rollins go?
“Hurdlers usually peak at around 27 years old,” Joanna Hayes, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the 100-meter hurdles, told The New York Times. “What Brianna is doing just isn’t done. It’s fair to call her a hurdle prodigy.”
Like all good coaches, Jackson won’t let Rollins rest on her laurels. After she congratulated her for the world title, she gave her a pep talk.
“I told her, ‘Now that you’re there, in the limelight, never forget where you came from because you got bundles of support from so many people in Miami,’ ” Jackson said. “And then I told her, ‘You still have a lot of work to do. You have not broken the world record yet. You can.
“You have not won the Olympic Games yet. You will.’ ”