Jackson finds redemption in second chance

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – It would have been easy for senior kicker Richard Jackson to quit following fall practice.

The returning starter learned that redshirt freshman Chandler Catanzaro had won the job, and that he would be relegated to mentoring the younger player. Add in the fact that his father had to have emergency surgery, and it wasn’t a good three weeks for the Riverside High School graduate.

Instead of packing it in, however, Jackson stuck with it, and will more than likely be the kicker when Clemson plays N.C. State this weekend. He said on Monday that quitting just isn’t in his vocabulary.

“It’s not in me to quit. It comes from my family to keep pressing on and never really give up,” Jackson said. “I tried to stay consistent throughout the season even though it wasn’t my job, and try to contribute to my team even though I wasn’t contributing on the field. That’s helped me to stay consistent in practice and continue to work and wait for a chance if it came and if it didn’t contribute in other ways. This is a little redemption, maybe. “

Jackson admitted that even though his father was battling for his health, he was still encouraging his son.

“He’s doing well,” Jackson said. “But fall camp was a rough three weeks for me. Even when he was having trouble, he was helping me and inspiring me however he could. He’s actually come to the games since the first two. He probably shouldn’t have, but he was going to be there for me, so that’s given me a little motivation and inspiration.

”I don’t know if I’ve improved since then. I just want to forget those three weeks. I feel like I’ve had a really strong year-and-a- half, minus those three weeks in fall camp. I felt like I was back to the form that I had in the spring and camp last year, last season, and even the spring camp before that. I felt like I had a hurdle, kind of a slump and have fought my way out of it.”

Catanzaro missed two field goals against Boston College on Saturday, and head coach Dabo Swinney said that Jackson would have made the next kick, but that opportunity never transpired as the Clemson offense bogged down.

Swinney said during his Sunday teleconference that he expects Jackson to be the number one kicker this week, but Jackson said the coaches haven’t told him what to expect.

“I know I was the kicker for the next kick in the Boston College game,” Jackson said. “If we got the opportunity, I was going to go in. Other than that, we haven’t met yet today, but I haven’t heard anything else. I’m going to treat it like a normal week, continue to work hard, try to improve, and remain consistent. Whatever decision is made.”

He also said he was at peace with the decision to let the freshman kicker start the season because Catanzaro had earned the right.

“Chandler had a really good preseason,” he said. “I try not to put too much weight into that. He was very strong and very deserving of the position. By know means was I bitter. I was disappointed, but I had no real problems with it because of the way he performed, he deserved it.

”In times that he’s struggled, I’ve gone to him and tried to help him because that was my role- my role wasn’t to be the guy that was constantly bugging the coaches or pointing out the negatives. I’ve tried to support him when I could, and give advice where I could based on my experiences. That’s kind of the role that I’ve taken.”

Because of everything he has had to go to through, he will have no added pressure when it comes time to make a big kick.

“I’ve got a little bit different perspective,” he said. “When it comes down to it, this is football. It’s not life or death. I’ve tried to take that perspective and understand that this is a kick. If it came down to it and we scored [at Boston College], I would have a 20 -yard kick to take the lead. That’s what it was- it wasn’t a life or death situation. I have a certain comfort level.”

Making a big kick, however, would mean a lot to certain people.

“It would definitely mean a lot to a lot of people- the support group that ‘s tried to help me,” Jackson said. “It would absolutely mean a lot to me, but also a lot to other people- my family, my close friends that have helped me along the way.

”I’ve been loose all season because I’ve had that experience and understand that there’s really nothing to lose. A missed kick is not the end of the world, so it’s hard to be afraid to kick. In the past, I think I would’ve been afraid to miss, especially in a big-time situation. You can’t be scared to lose or afraid to miss. You have to be loose and I think I understand that now.”

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