Note: The following appears in the The Citadel gameday football program.
One guiding principle has been at the front of Josh Jackson’s mind in recent months…trust God’s plan. Amid ever-evolving questions and emotionally charged conversations surrounding issues of racial injustice, the COVID-19 pandemic and the very fate of his final year at Clemson, the wide receiver exuded a renewed sense of peace and self-assurance in his approach to this season.
“I’ve been trying to use this time to grow spiritually. I’ve spent time getting to know myself, figuring out what I want to do and what I enjoy, and thinking about what I hold dear and how important family is to me.”
The Greenville, S.C. native embraced his extended stay back home during quarantine and in the months leading up to the start of team workouts, soaking up quality time with his mother and trying his hand at jigsaw puzzles with his girlfriend before lining up for his final year.
Jackson does not intend to leave the world of schooling behind, as he is set to graduate in the spring with his elementary education degree. He credited his decision to pursue a teaching career to Tiger football’s involvement with Call Me MISTER, a program designed to equip rising educators from diverse backgrounds to be role models and to better serve disadvantaged young students.
“In my first year on the football team, Call Me MISTER brought some kids to practice, and we were able to hang out with them. I talked to people in the program and started getting into it and their mission…to help us help kids.”
Since his introduction to Call Me MISTER and joining soon after, Jackson has become a consistent face of Clemson’s chapter. He has participated in the group’s annual leadership institute and in local outreach initiatives like Razor Readers, which improves children’s reading skills and access to books, and Kicks, Cleats & Kids, which provides elementary and middle school students a day of activities with the Tiger football team. He has also mentored students at Ravenel Elementary School through the Clemson athletics program Paw Pals.
With plans to remain in the Upstate to teach fourth grade, the kids he has worked with over the past few years could be the same ones he pours into after graduation.
For Jackson, the drive to continue as a role model for youth in the community is grounded in his own experiences.
“I might not have wanted to be outgoing or talk because I didn’t really feel comfortable in the classroom. I want to make sure that all of the kids feel comfortable and welcome and understand that they’re important, their opinions are important and someone cares about them.”
Jackson’s focus on building relationships and valuing students mirrors what he has seen on the Clemson football team, especially this offseason.
“We grew really close this year. When we talked about everything (the past six months), that really helped us grow together and know each other’s story. Our chemistry is at a different level.”
From the culture in the wide receiver room that celebrates teammates’ successes, to conversations with coaches and P.A.W. Journey leaders about life outside of football, Jackson has always felt valued as more than an athlete.
As an original walk-on safety, he was emphatically welcomed onto the team by defensive end Regan Upshaw and former Tiger safety Denzel Johnson, forming a trio that would go on to found their own rock air band, CM Banana Clip, complete with individual stage names.
“We’ve played downtown and at Tigerama in Death Valley. If coronavirus settles down, we can get a CM Banana Clip redemption tour and go out with a stage in the sunflower gardens.”
But until that redemption tour happens, Jackson is focused purely on enjoying every moment in Clemson, controlling what he can control, and trusting God’s plan.