Just about every freshman football player that sets foot on campus, in Boulder and across the nation, dreams of careers filled with electric highlight reels and all-conference awards.
Yet the reality is that scenario unfolds for only a precious few.
One case in point is Colorado senior receiver Jaylon Jackson. Once considered a virtual lock for an eventual spot in the wideout rotation, injuries derailed Jackson’s career essentially before it began. Now a senior special teams ace for the Buffaloes, Jackson’s return to CU for one final season has been about fulfilling the promise of helping the CU program turn the corner, even if Jackson’s contributions arrive in a much different manner than he once expected.
“Being a part of this brotherhood, everybody has a role. Everybody’s got a job to do,” Jackson said. “Seeing the bigger picture instead of just thinking about yourself and saying I need to do this, or I need to do that. Playing a role and doing what’s best for the team at the time being…everybody, your time will come as the season goes on, as the years go on. You never know when it’s going to be your time to shine.”
Jackson’s time to shine presumably was near at hand when he arrived at CU in 2017, but a gruesome broken ankle suffered early in the preseason erased Jackson’s rookie season. Since his comeback, Jackson mostly has found his niche on special teams, winning the Buffs’ Most Improved Special Teams Player award in 2019. Jackson was a second team All-Pac-12 selection as a special teams player during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and should be an integral cog of the special teams once again in 2022.
So far this preseason CU head coach Karl Dorrell has lauded the potential of the younger players on the Buffs’ roster. In Jackson, there is an example for those players to look toward when adversity strikes. Jackson goes into his final season having collected just 14 receptions for 138 yards with one touchdown, yet he nonetheless expects to fill a key role for the Buffs.
“First of all, he’s a great leader,” Dorrell said. “An older player that obviously has had some injuries in his career. He understands that. But he’s so impactful with his teammates. He wants to be a factor on some aspect of this program. He knows special teams is where he’s going to get most of his playing time. He’s going to be a good reserve for us at the receiver position, but he knows that that’s kind of what stands out to him, is to really excel in (special teams) and provide great leadership.
“We’re fortunate to have him back. He didn’t have to come back. He’s already graduated. But he wanted to finish out here and help this team be successful.”
Once again, Jackson might find opportunities limited in cracking CU’s receiver rotation. If all goes as planned, however, Jackson will get through one final season injury-free and will, at the very least, make some game-changing play on CU’s punt or kickoff units.
“I look at things more of a glass-half-full. Things like setbacks, you can let them destroy you or use them for motivation to be better and do more things,” Jackson said. “To me, it’s given me the drive to do things and be thankful that I’m even still able to play the game with all the injuries I’ve had so far.
“We have a tremendous (receivers) coach in Phil McGeoghan and we have a wonderful OC in Mike Sanford. And then just my guys on the team. I have brothers on the team like Isaiah Lewis and Maurice Bell that’s been here since 2017. We came in together. I feel like I’d have done them a disservice or felt selfish leaving them. Having a brotherhood with those guys made me want to stay here even more.”