Of the 17 seniors playing in their final game for Colorado State against New Mexico on Friday, only a handful have had the impact that linebacker Dequan Jackson has.
Jackson is a graduate student and Friday’s game will be the end of his fifth year of eligibility.
A member of the CSU program since his freshman year in 2018 and a starter since his sophomore year, Jackson made a strong impression on head coach Jay Norvell, who was only able to coach the standout for one year.
“Dequan is an excellent student,” Norvell said. “He’s a guy who’s really taken advantage of his education. And he’s taken advantage of his football as well, playing here at CSU. He’s worked really hard to be a great example for the younger players. The guy has really been an example in difficult times and is committed to this university and this program.”
As a freshman at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida, Jackson appeared in 10 games, recording 11 tackles. I was just scratching the surface of what I was capable of.
His sophomore year, he played in all 12 CSU games, starting 11 of them. He had 87 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He established himself as a leader on defense.
COVID came into his junior season and played and started in four shortened season games. He had 40 tackles and was a team captain for the first time.
He started every game his senior season, totaling 84 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
After his junior season, he was named second team All-Mountain West and after his senior year, he was named honorable mention All-Mountain West.
So far this season, Jackson has 89 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss to go along with two forced fumbles.
Although he has been a captain for three seasons, Jackson has taken on a bigger role as a leader on this year’s team, one that featured a new coach and a significant number of players who left the team during the season .
“It’s been an honor, man,” Jackson said. “A lot of times, it’s the players on the team that get to vote, especially when a new staff comes in. I think the staff has approved of it anyway, but it’s been an honor to lead these guys and make them look up to me. to influence and take on all the challenges that we’ve had and be an example to the guys about how to handle it and how to handle adversity.
“I hope the guys have learned from me over the years. Maybe when I get out of here, I’ll inspire other guys to step up and be a leader.”
As one of the longest-tenured Rams, Jackson has endured his share of changes and adversity. He played for three coaches: Mike Bobo for two years, Steve Addazio for two years and now Norvell the last.
Between his senior season and this one, Norvell came on board and has really enjoyed getting to know the triple captain on more than just a coach and player level and seeing him take a leadership role.
“I think it’s been great getting to know each other,” Norvell said. “We really spend a lot of time just talking about what’s important in leadership and all the qualities of great leaders and examples of great leadership. Dequan is taking it very seriously and I think it will serve him well for the rest of his life.” .
Norvell hopes the younger players have learned from Jackson how to handle tough situations.
Through coaching changes, Jackson stayed. Then, when players started leaving the team early in the season, Jackson was determined to stay loyal and committed and play out the rest of his senior year.
“I committed to this program and the team and I never signed with a coach,” Jackson said. “I thank the coaches who assigned me and hired me. Every coaching staff has been great to me, personally. It’s just one of those things where I look at the commitment I made to my brothers and the guys in that locker room and I could probably look at myself the same way.
“Every time this opportunity comes up, I look at the guys and realize this is where I want to be. It wasn’t really a difficult decision to stay here.”
Exploration of the Lobos
New Mexico is 2-9 on the season and 0-7 in the Mountain West. The Lobos have lost eight straight, most recently suffering a 34-10 setback against San Diego State.
The Lobos are led offensively by quarterback Miles Kendrick, who has passed for 863 yards and three touchdowns. However, CJ Montes had his first start at quarterback last week and passed for 112 yards and had an interception.
Running back Nate Jones leads the rushing attack with 534 yards and two touchdowns. Georgon Porter is the team’s leading receiver with 312 yards and two touchdowns.
“We might see a couple of quarterbacks in this game, so we really have to be ready for that,” Norvell said. “They’re kind of a spread option team where they try to run their quarterbacks and get their athletes into space.”
Defensively, Cody Moon leads the team in tackles with 97 tackles. He also has 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Reco Hannah leads the team in sacks with four. Ronald Wilson and AJ Haulcy each have two interceptions to lead the team.
“Their defense is very difficult, a lot of blitzing, a lot of delaying,” Norvell said. “We’ve just got to be really marked where people are and be able to block movement against those guys.”
CSU leads the all-time series between the two teams, 43-25. The Rams have won the last 11 meetings, including last year’s 36-7 victory in Albuquerque.