Interview with Richard Jackson

by - Senior Writer -
Photos by Fotoman [Practice Gallery 3]

Clemson junior place kicker Richard Jackson came to Clemson with high hopes on the back of an outstanding high school career that had him as the No. 3 kicker in the nation his senior season. Included in his impressive resume was a South Carolina state record 64-yard field goal. However, since coming to Clemson in 2006, Jackson has handled a few kickoffs and made two extra points [in 2007], and faced an uncertain future when academics almost curtailed his athletic career last spring. This year looks brighter for the Greer native and Riverside graduate, who seemingly has a slight edge on Spencer Benton to be the starter when the season begins this Saturday, and TigerNet stopped Jackson for a question and answer session about the upcoming season.

DH: What seems to be the biggest difference for you this season?
Jackson: I think the main thing is just that I am out there having fun. I am having a little bit more success than I have in the past, which makes it fun. Instead of worrying about everything, I am able to just relax and enjoy the moment. There were some pretty tough times for me, and I had my work cut out for me in the classroom, and nothing was certain. Every day was kind of a gut check, staying up on my studies, and doing the right thing as far as football is concerned. I am pretty happy where I am at right now. I have a certain comfort factor, and I am putting things in perspective and enjoying it. I am not worrying about the big picture, just taking one step at a time, going forward and having fun.

DH: Did you ever get to the point that you thought you would never play football at Clemson again?
RJ: I did, and now I am able to put things in perspective. Nothing is a given. We as players are so blessed to be out there. You don’t really understand how good it is at the top until you hit rock bottom. I was very close to rock bottom last year, and that makes everything that is happening now even more special.

DH: Have you envisioned being out there as the starter on Saturday?
RJ: Somewhat, but I have really tried to not think about the things I can’t control this camp and in the spring. I have tried to focus on the things I can control, like my work ethic, my studies, and the way I kick the ball. I can’t worry about things I can’t control, which is pretty much everything else. I can envision being out there, but I have not really put that much thought into it because it is out of my control.

DH: It looks like you and Spencer Benton have a great relationship when you are working together. Has the competition been a friendly one?
RJ: It has been. We are friends off the field. It goes back to when I first got here, and the relationship I had with Jad [Dean] and Cole [Chason] and Jimmy Maners, and then Mark Buckholz the past two years. We all got along great. As specialists, we are always over on our own field, doing our own thing, and we spend a lot of time together. It makes us a close-knit group.

DH: If you are named the starter, and you are facing your first big kick, what will be running through your head?
RJ: Hopefully, not much is going to be running through my head. If there is, it might be a problem. The big thing for us [kickers] is to mentally block out everything – the fans, the stadium, the whole situation – and just kick it like we have in practice. After the kick, I am sure there will be positive emotions. But this has been a long time coming, and I am not there yet. Nothing is for certain. I am just taking it day by day.

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