Bam, Bam: Dirty work to the end zone for UL's Jackson

Tim Buckley
The Daily Advertiser
UL's Jarrod Bam Jackson makes a crazy catch for a touchdown in UL's 66-38 win over New Mexico State last Saturday night.

The Ragin’ Cajuns receiver wore his suit and tie after last Saturday night’s 66-38 win over New Mexico State.

Not because it was required.

Not because he caught four passes, including two for touchdowns, against the Aggies.

Not even because he was asked to meet with the media afterward.

No, UL junior Jarrod “Bam” Jackson — only child, proud son — wore it for a loved one.

“I put it on so my mom (Jessica Jackson) could see me in my suit,” Jackson said.

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That’s because Jackson, understand, is all about family.

Take his name.

Legally, it’s “Jarrod.”

But he’s Bam.

Has been since he was a little guy; is to all his friends and teammates.

Family’s the reason.

“I was about 3 years old,” Jackson said. “When I was that young, nobody called me ‘Jarrod.’ Everybody called me ‘little baby.’”

That wasn’t going to cut it when Little Baby grew big and old.

So …

“My grandfather, actually — he used to pick me up, bounce me on his lap, saying, ‘Bam, Bam,’” Jackson said, demonstrating as he told the tale. “And that’s all she wrote. Ever since then, everybody called me ‘Bam.’”

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Through the first five games of the 2018 season, Bam Jackson had precisely two catches — one for 3 yards in a loss at Mississippi State, another for 29 yards in a win at Texas State.

Yet long before Saturday’s win over NMSU, and even before the 29-yard grab against Texas State, coach Billy Napier — whose 3-3 Cajuns visit 4-1 Appalachian State at 2:30 p.m. (central) Saturday — was singing Jackson’s praises.

It’s all because Jackson does the little things right.

The dirty work.

“Bam Jackson, to me, is a guy who is very unselfish,” Napier said prior to the Texas State game.

“You know, (he) hasn’t had a ton of production. He’s had opportunities for the ball to go his way, but it hasn’t quite worked out. But I just think he’s an outstanding person. He’s got a great attitude.

“He has all the intangibles,” added Napier, a first-year head coach at UL who inherited Jackson from the staff of former Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth. “In my opinion, he’s one of our best representatives of what we would want a Ragin’ Cajun football player to be.”

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That was then.

Then came the New Mexico State game, and Jackson did have his opportunities.

When they came, he delivered.

Big time.

Jackson’s four catches against the Aggies went for 63 yards.

One of the four accounted for no yardage, but he was credited with a catch that started as a short forward pass from UL backup quarterback Levi Lewis that Jackson then pitched to Earnest Patterson on a 79-yard double-reverse that went for a touchdown.

He, fittingly, was the unheralded pivot in the trick play.

Jackson’s first touchdown Saturday was a 30-yarder thrown by Cajuns starting quarterback Andre Nunez in the opening quarter.

His second TD was a ridiculous 22-yarder in the second quarter, also thrown by Nunez, that Jackson caught by using one hand to snatch the lower tip of the ball.

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“He threw it up, and I said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get on my horses to get that one,’” Jackson said. “I said, ‘I’m gonna get it.’ I put my hand up, and I came down with it.”

Nunez, for one, was not surprised.

“We’ve had that connection long before this game,” he said. “It comes with practice. It comes with working every day — even after the practice. It’s repping it, many a time before the game comes.

“That’s why we do it — so it shows in a game, and we get that reward,” the Cajuns QB added. “You know, Bam’s a heck of a player — and I’m glad we’ve got him on our team.”

UL receiver Jarrod Bam Jackson helps lead the Ragin' Cajuns onto the field for their Homecoming win over New Mexico State last Saturday. Jackson had two touchdown catches in the 66-38 win.

Jackson’s happy to be on it.

What he does, however, comes all in the usual course of business.

Sure, when he finds himself open 1-on-1 his eyes light up — like he said — “as big as my facemask.”

But what he did Saturday — two TD receptions, one by the nose of the ball — really is no big deal, as Jackson sees it.

“In a game you get a watered-down version of the things you do in practice, and that’s something I do in practice,” he said. “You can ask the coaching staff. I catch balls with one hand, frequently, dating all the way back to since I first got here.”

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Jackson — a product of East St. John High — arrived at UL in 2015, but sustained a gruesome-looking ACL tear during preseason camp and wound up taking a medical redshirt as a freshman.

He played sparingly in six games as a reserve receiver and on special teams during the 2016 season, but didn’t record any statistics.

Then last year he appeared in all 12 games, making one final-game start and finishing with 18 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns.

Seven of those receptions and one of the TDs came in one game, double-overtime loss to in-state rival UL Monroe.

It was a breakout game for someone who spends most of his time doing things that aren’t noticed.

Not that he minds.

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“As a wideout,” Jackson said, “sometimes you’ve got to keep your head down and just work. Your day is gonna come.”

Much more often than not, though, Jackson is running his routes to full completion — not for a catch, but just to help teammates get a little more room with which to work.

He’s blocking downfield and playing physical on the perimeter trying to help spring another Cajun for a TD of their own.

He’s doing whatever he can to make someone else’s life on the field a little easier, whether it’s on offense or just holding up a man on special teams.

“I take a lot of pride in doing that — you know, just blocking,” Jackson said. “‘Being a grown man,’ as Coach Napier would say.

“He (Napier) always puts his money on us at H (slot receiver), blocking, no matter who it is. I take pride in that: dominating. Whatever I’ve got to do, I make sure I dominate. And I have no problem doing the dirty work, because it’s going to pay off in the end for me.”

And somebody’s got to do it.

“That guy right there — he’s the definition,” Napier said. “I mean, if I could just say what we want our players to be like — they’d be like that guy.”

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Through four games this season, remember, Jackson had just one catch.

“Not one whisper from the guy,” Napier said. “I mean, the guy’s a positive. … No complaining.

“And every time we (do) dial the guy’s number, he just makes a play.”

Like against ULM last season, when one of Nunez’s two fourth-quarter touchdown throws to help force overtime went to Jackson.

Like against New Mexico State on Saturday night.

“One of things Bam does is he plays without the ball,” Napier said. “And that’s a good indicator.

“If you’re a receiver or running back, how you play without the ball — that basically defines what type of teammate you are. And he is the epitome of a good teammate.”

It’s simply the way it should be, Jackson suggests.

“We always rally around each other. We rally for each other,” Jackson said of he and his Cajun teammates. “We always have each other’s back. We support each other, no matter what we do, in everything.”

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Jackson made a favorable impression on Napier early on, but a toe injury in the summer hampered his progress and cost him valuable preseason camp time.

But with Napier moving backup Patterson and starter Ryheem Malone from the slot to flanker because he prefers bigger bodies who can block in the slot, the chance for increased playing time presented itself.

Jackson jumped at it, toe injury be darned, and now he’s taken over top slot duties from early season starter Jalen Williams.

“He’s certainly battled back (and put himself) in position to be a guy who can impact our team,” Napier said.

It’s the kind of stuff that makes a family proud.

And that matters to Jackson, because family — from the grandfather who gave him his preferred name, to a mom who appreciates how he looks — matters to him.

“Growing up an only child, I never had any ‘real’ brothers or sisters,” Jackson said. “But my cousins, and people I know that I’m really close with — I give them everything I’ve got.

“That’s really my family, and family means everything to me. You know, back at home they say it takes a village to raise a child. And … I’m very grateful for my village.

“They made me who I am today. They made me respectful. They made me learn how to speak to people, how to be nice and how to encourage people,” Jackson added. “And, you know, I love my family.”

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His voice quivers just a touch, and Jackson ponders a question about teammates being an extension of family.

Is that why he’s so willing to do the dirty work for others, he’s asked.

Jackson suggests he’s never really made that connection. Yet he sure plays like it.

“You can say that. But that’s just how I am,” Jackson said. “I was taught by my mom and my dad (Jarrod Jackson Sr.) to work hard at all times.

“No matter if you don’t like what you’ve got to do, if you love what you’ve got to do, you always give it the same effort — because you’re always going to want the result in the end, and you’re gonna want production at the end of the day, no matter what you do.

“You know, those guys are my brothers — in that locker room, all 150 of us,” Jackson added. “I have a lot of brothers. That’s my people. I’m gonna ride with them, no matter what.”

And he’s going to look good doing it, too.

So just what did Mom think of the classy grey suit?

“She liked it. She loved it. She liked the tie. She liked how I put the plain-Jane white shirt with the nice tie,” he said before slipping into the sincerest form of flattery. “She said, ‘Oh, Bam, you look good.’ I told her, ‘Thank you,’ and gave her a big hug.”